Once a refuge for artists who rented cheap industrial lofts, SoHo is now one of the most stylish and exclusive neighborhoods in New York. While many of the artists have long since relocated, much of the art remains.
Squeezed between trendy restaurants and upscale boutiques, dozens of art galleries remain in SoHo. Below are ten of the best.
Located on a cobblestone street around the block from the famed pizzeria Lombardi’s, this gallery focuses on fashion photography and has exhibited giants of the industry like David LaChapelle. Their shows also cover a wide swath of portraiture, including an extensive exhibit by Harry Benson, a Scottish photojournalist with a knack for capturing civil rights riots and early glamour shots of Kate Moss with equal vigor.
100 Crosby Street, Suite 305
Swiss Institute Contemporary Art New York
This non-profit institution is dedicated to the experimental edge of Swiss Culture. An oversized garage door turned into a wall of gleaming glass marks the entrance and welcomes visitors, in grand SoHo fashion, into the cavernous gallery space. Inventive show names like “& faintly heard (as it sinks slowly): with The Tenderness of Maggots” signal a willingness to break the mold and a desire to provoke conversation. That particular exhibit examines the brutality woven into manmade institutions.
102 Franklin Street
Morrison Hotel Gallery
This preeminent fine art music photography gallery was founded by veterans of the music industry, including photographer Henry Diltz, who shot The Doors’ iconic 1969 album cover for Morrison Hotel. There are no rooms here, just a steady collection of some of the most vivid moments in rock and jazz captured in candid snapshots. Recent highlights include a black and white photo of jazz legend Miles Davis going head-to-head with a small punching bag at Gleason’s Gym in 1970.
116 Prince Street, 2nd Floor
This dynamic gallery is the bold vision of owner José Freire whose gritty avant-garde sensibility has made it a place to watch for years. Recent highlights include “Egyptian Violet,” a show by Sam McKinniss, featuring rich oil and acrylic paintings that merge the grand Renaissance portrait style with the modern world. A particular standout was a painting of Prince from his “Purple Rain” days amidst a wash of rich color.
83 Grand Street
Kate Werble Gallery
With cement floors and exposed pipes, the atmosphere of this gallery echoes SoHo’s industrial past. Located equidistant from the Film Forum and New York City Fire Museum, Kate Werble hosts shows that cover a wide breadth of the art world, from Gareth Long’s colorful sculptures to Melanie Schiff’s ominous and electric photographs. Other recent highlights include the provocative “Sexting” show that examined coupling in its various forms.
83 Vandam Street
The Drawing Center
This non-profit institution was founded in 1977 by curator Martha Beck with an aim to focus solely on drawing as it relates to and is an engine of creativity. Unlike the other galleries listed, they charge a small admission, a tiny fraction of the fees for museums like the Whitney and MoMA. The galleries are dotted with large white columns, and recent exhibits include the first solo show of Columbian artist Mateo López in the United States. Entitled “Undo List,” the multidisciplinary installation features a melding of performance, sculpture and project film conceived around drawn planes of space.
35 Wooster Street
Anita Rogers Gallery
This hidden gem exhibits a wide range of emerging to mid-career artists in an elegant high-ceilinged space flooded in light, with an old-fashioned fireplace to boot. Highlights include the abstract minimalist paintings of George Negroponte on irregular pieces of cardboard. While they may appear slight at first, there’s a subtle beauty of geometric expression that shines through the longer you peer into these unique creations.
77 Mercer Street, Suite 2N
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts
This landmark gallery was founded on the Upper East Side in 1971 and has been at their current SoHo location since 1982. A former lawyer, the eponymous owner has remained on the cutting edge by embracing artists like Ida Applebroog, who took decades to find commercial success. Recent exhibitions include Nancy Chunn’s topical “Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear,” which uses bright animated colors to make pointed statements about police states.
31 Mercer Street
Louis K. Meisel Gallery
Founded in 1973, this large gallery’s footprint now stretches to a whopping 20,000 square feet. Known for championing the work of photorealist heavy hitters like Richard Estes and Chuck Close, whose portraits now dot the 2nd Avenue Subway, the gallery is seen as an authority on the art movement. Recent highlights include a solo show of Tom Blackwell, one of the earliest painters in the photorealist movement. Motorcycles abound in his work, as does the sense of a wide-eyed American heartland of yesteryear.
141 Prince Street