Chelsea Art Galleries: Seeing Great Art for Free (unless you buy something)

Art lovers who visit NYC often head straight for the big museums: the Metropolitan, the Museum of Modern Art, Frick, the Guggenheim, etc. etc. But some of the best up and coming art can’t be found in these larger, impressive institutions, not even in the MoMA. Sometimes galleries are the best places to see not only modern and new art but also shows by some of the rarer artists out there, dead or alive.

Because NYC is such a massive place it would be impractical to schlep around the city all day going to heaps of different venues for only about 20-30 minutes at a time. Therefore, certain areas sensitive to the arts have become cultural meccas for high quality and more importantly, free galleries. These include SoHo, Mid-town and of course, Chelsea.

Chelsea NeighborhoodBut even within Chelsea itself there are a ton of galleries not only on ground level but up above, as is characteristic of NYC. If you’ve got a full day to spend in this area then by all means my highest recommendation is to literally wander the streets and stairways of Chelsea and see what you stumble upon as this can lead you to the best galleries, the most unknown artists, and sometimes even a poorly advertised opening, which can always be a blast. Some of the best artists after all do tend to be rather unorganized.

But if you haven’t got the time to do it all, which few of us ever do, then here is a brief list of some of the better known venues in the area where you’re bound to see excellent art, probably recognize a few names, and hopefully even discover a few new talents you’ve yet to hear of.


Chuck Close ArtThis gallery has two locations in Chelsea and one further uptown. They have supported and made names for hundreds of artists since their start up in Boston in the 1960’s and are truly one of the best galleries in NYC. One of their sites is for much larger works while the other is smaller and accommodates works appropriate to that size. Past exhibits with bigger names have included Chuck Close (image on right), Zhang Huan, Jean Michel Basquiat with Jean Philippe DuBuffet, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, and Isamu Noguchi.

534 W 25th St & 545 W 22nd St (Larger Venue) (near 10th Ave)
New York, NY.
(212) 929-7000 & (212) 989-4285 (respectively)

Open Tue-Sat 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Cheim and Read:

A smaller gallery than some of the bigger named ones, Cheim and Read mainly shows paintings, prints and sculptures of only the highest quality and most fascinating subject matter. In the past they’ve had shows with wonderful works by well-known artists such as Andy Warhol and Louise Fishman. Their sculpture shows are really overwhelmingly beautiful and make them a reliable gallery to turn to for this medium in a city filled with questionable sculptures and public art.

547 W. 25th St
New York, NY.
(212) 242-7727

Tuesday-Thursday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm


Gagosian Richard SerraOne of the biggest named galleries in NYC, the Gagosian houses some of the more famous gallery work such as selections by Richard Serra (image on right), Cy Twombly, Cindy Sherman, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Wright, Basquiat, de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and the list goes on.

One of the reasons for the Gagosian’s celebrity status is not only the quality of their selections but the fact that they are, for lack of a better word, a chain. They have eight galleries all over the world, with three in NYC, two in London, one in California, one in Rome, and one in Athens. However, because they are still a gallery, you manage to avoid high admission prices and the crowds that you’d experience at museums.

555 W. 24th St and 522 W. 21st St.
New York, NY.
(212) 741-1111 & (212) 741-1717

Summer: Mon-Fri 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Winter: Tue-Sat 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Hours subject to change seasonally. Call to confirm.

If these three venues don’t fill up your day or satisfy your need for art then simply browse the windows and see what you like! The galleries are purposely located literally right next to one another to encourage and increase traffic. So, don’t be intimidated and feel free to just wander in. And remember, there are usually great galleries to visit on the upper levels of most Chelsea buildings.

Also, be advised that most galleries are closed on Mondays and close for the evening around 5:00 pm, although there are always exceptions.