"When times are hard, stick to what works" is an especially appropriate maxim in the vulnerable art market, which is now feeling the effects of a recession from which it initially seemed magically buffered. Smaller galleries will fall, some non-profit artist-run spaces will shutter, but on the plus side we're getting to see some museum-quality major artist retrospectives for free as gallery directors deploy those household names that always pay the bills. As of right now 7 gallery exhibitions are showing new and older works from some of modern art's biggest names, including Chuck Close, Alice Neel, Nam June Paik (work at right) and Pablo Picasso.
In Chelsea, the massive exhibition of drawings and paintings by Pablo Picasso, Mosqueteros (until June 6), chronicles the artist's prolific work in the 60s and 70s depicting nudes and musketeers. Get there early to avoid waiting in line (especially on Saturdays). PaceWildenstein's two Chelsea spaces are hosting showcases of new work by two art stars, with a series of large-scale nighttime paintings by Alex Katz occupying their 22nd Street space (until June 13) and recent paintings and photographs printed on fabric by Chuck Close in their 25th Street gallery (until June 20). In between don't miss the phenomenal mini Nam June Paik retrospective, Live Feed: 1972-994, at James Cohan Gallery (until May 30). Also on that block, Robert Longo's Surrendering the Absolute (until May 30) features a new series of his signature large-scale charcoal drawings.
In Midtown, meanwhile, Aernout Mik is literally all over MoMA, but you should also catch the Dutch video artist's contribution to Prospect. 1, New Orleans' 2008 Biennial, currently on view at The Project Gallery (until June 26). A trek a little further uptown will be worth your while for the chance to see Zwirner & Wirth's Alice Neel retrospective, Nudes of the 1930s (until June 20). With so many massive free gallery shows, who even needs museums? (Mini summer museum round-up coming soon.)