Once a gritty industrial neighborhood ignored by the city’s elite, Williamsburg became a hotbed for artistic activity in the ‘90s, luring artists with an abundance of cheap loft space.
Soaring prices have caused many of the artists to move east, but an abundance of top-notch galleries remains. Here are ten of the best to check out.
Founder Richard Timperio opened the first iteration of this artist-run gallery in a coffee shop on Bedford Avenue in 1994 when the neighborhood was “dangerous and desolate.” It’s now the busiest street in the neighborhood, and the gallery has built a reputation for exhibiting a high-quality array of contemporary artists. One recent highlight is Dana Gordon, whose large-scale acrylic and oil paintings explode with color. Combining geometric patterns with free-flowing lines in the vein of Jackson Pollock, Gordon contrasts different modes of painting to great effect.
319 Bedford Ave.
This gallery, in the neighborhood’s trendy and affluent North Side, is a hotbed for hipster-cool installations filled with wondrous colors and repurposed materials, like t-shirts. Images of Pablo Picasso, Steve Coogan and Sigmund Freud are displayed side-by-side in a rich collage that sparks sensory overload. An eye-catching sculpture uses a mold of what appears to be chocolate to fashion a buttocks, which is naturally covered in rainbow sprinkles. If there is a theme to this gallery’s works, it’s breaking the mold of expectations.
166 N 12th St.
Soloway Fine Arts
This intimate gallery run by artists Annette Wehrhahn, Hakim Bishara and Tomer Aluf is located in the South Side by the Williamsburg Bridge, a short walk from the popular no-frills southern comfort spot Pies and Thighs. In addition to an array of contemporary exhibits, they host events, including film screenings, cartoon slideshows and a range of performance art. One recent show featured improvisational country blues and an abstract score played on two split halves of a cello.
348 S 4th St.
Located in southeast Williamsburg, this gallery has spent roughly the last decade exhibiting a wildly diverse range of art, from photography to sculptural installations. Recent exhibits include Mary Manning’s Trees is as Good as Anything and Liz Linden’s Damaged Goods. The former features landscapes with an urban sensibility, while the latter features a collection of book cover illustrations that share the same title of the exhibit but cover radically different subjects, from the power of God’s love to raunchy illicit affairs.
110 Meserole Ave.
The Journal Gallery
Owned by Michael Nevin and Julia Dippelhofer (who produce an influential magazine that bears the same name), this cavernous gallery is known for consistently delivering compelling shows that push the boundaries of style and form. One recent highlight is The Middle Riddle, a joint large-scale installation by Johanna Jackson and Chris Johanson. Produced both in their studio and at the gallery, the show approximates the feeling of being directly immersed at the point of the artists’ creation. Paintings depicting vibrant scenes of life are casually arranged next to more subtle sculptures and quilt-like collages of color.
106 N 1st St.
Located on the edge of East Williamsburg, this cutting-edge gallery founded by Kelani Nichole focuses on solo exhibitions by women who are reconfiguring technology in exciting and innovative ways through their computer-based practices. The space itself has dark, rich hardwood floors and soaring ceilings, which provides an ideal atmosphere for these high-tech works. The recent exhibition Precarious Inhabitants, a time-based media installation by Greek artist Eva Papamargariti, examines the symbiosis between humans, animals and artificial intelligence machines.
1030 Metropolitan Ave.
Founded in 2004 by artist Ellen E. Rand, this gallery doesn’t discriminate against artists based on age or how new they are to the form. The result is a range of disparate styles that capture Rand’s diverse and passionate taste. One recent highlight is a joint show between dancer/choreographer Paige Martin and artist Kate Lawless. Martin’s wicker-crafted objects feature wild lines of spirals that burst with a sense of kinetic energy, while Lawless’s paintings, inspired by the Andromeda Galaxy, depict a universe swirling outside our control.
101 Grand St.
This gallery is dedicated to a wide range of contemporary and 20th century art that explores the human form in a diverse array of mediums, including pencil, pen and ink, oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, glass and sculpture. Covering an unusual breadth of material, the gallery’s holdings include Alexander Calder’s Santa Clause Suite portfolio, along with a series of lithographs by social and political satirist William Gropper that depict the dramatic unrest inside the U.S. government during Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
168 N 6th St.
Williamsburg Art and Historical Society
Founded by artist Yuko Nii and housed in an ornate 1867 former bank building, this gallery strives to exhibit the diverse community’s local artists along with those from all over the world. The landmarked building has hosted shows from Cuba, Holland, Italy, Japan, Russia and Vietnam, among others. Recent highlights include Building Bridges, a group show of 26 artists organized around the theme of creating a peaceful global community that transcends borders, religions, sexual identity, race and gender.
Adam Yokell’s gallery is housed in a former warehouse on the Bushwick border and represents the powerful transformation of new beginnings–Yokell was previously the in-house counsel for the online platform Artsy. The gallery is one of the newest and most exciting additions to the neighborhood’s art scene. A recent highlight is Andrea Joyce Heimer’s solo show A Jealous Person. Her vibrant paintings blur the lines between figurative and abstract, depicting raucously joyful scenes with seemingly contradictory titles that hint at an unseen darkness.
1002 Metropolitan Ave., #21