Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Courtesy Clearing
So you’re a recent MFA grad from Yale, RISD, VCU, SCAD, or another highly regarded (and high-priced) studio art program, and you’ve arrived in Brooklyn to recoup your investment and conquer the art world? The good news is that whatever your plan lacks in originality (and you want to be an artist?!), it more than makes up for in rationality. After all, no greater concentration of artists, art organizations, art publications, alternative spaces, curators, galleries specializing in emerging artists and affordable-ish studios exists in the country. These are the places and people you need to know to make it here. (NB: we realize that this list is very North Brooklyn-centric, but that’s just how it is, ok?)
Daniel Zeller Courtesy Pierogi
In the crazy gallery boom-and-bust that has been playing out in Williamsburg since the 90s, no dealers have managed to thrive while sticking to their guns like Joseph Arnheim and Susan Swenson of N. 9th Street’s Pierogi. In addition to representing a stable of emerging and established artists including Dawn Clements, William Lamson, Tony Fitzpatrick and Ward Shelley, they host a sprawling online flat file showcasing more than 900 artists, and in 2009 added a stunning annex space, The Boiler, on N. 14th Street.
Lili Reynaud-Dewar Courtesy Clearing
Since launching in 2011 on a deserted stretch of Johnson Avenue—with a two-person show featuring reigning art market darling Jacob Kassay, no less—Clearing has been unstoppable, with an air-tight exhibition program in Bushwick, off-site shows everywhere from Venice to Miami, an annex in Brussels, and booths at some of the world’s biggest art fairs, including the Armory Show, Paris’s FIAC and NADA.
Richard Timperio’s South Williamsburg standby, opened in 1999, is just about the last gallery left in the area, but he’s not resting on his laurels, often alternating between incredibly ambitious solo shows and wall-filling salon shows like the recent and epic Nation, which doubled as a who’s-who of the Brooklyn scenes.
Mathieu Lefevre Courtesy Regina Rex
Run by the same-named, 13-member artist collective, Regina Rex has put on Bushwick’s strongest exhibitions, month in and month out—save the rare dud—since opening in 2010 at 1717 Troutman Street (which, ahem, is technically in Ridgewood). It also happens to be one of the nicest art spaces in any outer-borough, so if you’re lucky enough to earn the group’s attention, rest assured that your work will look its best in the gallery.
Arpie Gennetian Najarian Courtesy NURTUREArt
The revered, 16-year-old non-profit has stepped up to the mark since taking over a large basement space in Bushwick’s most populous gallery building, 56 Bogart Street, in 2011, with a solid and varied array of exhibitions, talks, off-site shows and education programs.
Shamus Clisset Courtesy Storefront Bushwick/Ten Eyck Street
Over the past two years, this tiny Wilson Avenue space has been a vital showcase for neighborhood artists. Though its exhibition program has been uneven at times, dealer Deborah Brown’s impending relocation to a massive warehouse on Ten Eyck Street that she recently purchased augurs well for the Bushwick art scene’s longevity.
Courtesy Momenta Art
Another Williamsburg-to-Bushwick transplant (notice the pattern?), Momenta has taken on increasingly complex and ambitious projects since moving into its spacious first-floor space at 56 Bogart. A haven for rigorous, non-commercial work since its founding in Philadelphia in 1986 (director Eric Heist moved it to New York in 1992), Momenta has become an increasingly active participant in the art fair circuit, and its advisory board is stacked with bold-faced names, including R.H. Quaytman, Omer Fast, Huma Bhabha, Rico Gatson, and others.
Courtesy Robert Henry Contemporary
Robert Henry Contemporary
The former South Slope gallery, which recently joined the ranks of 56 Bogart spaces, has a penchant for abstract works on or made of paper and represents an exceptionally tight roster of artists—though it also accepts submissions during the summer months, FYI.
Courtesy Interstate Projects
We were instantly impressed when Tom Weinrich launched Interstate in a corner space at 56 Bogart in the spring of 2011 with a roster of visually gripping, conceptually daring group and solo shows. Since he relocated to a sprawling former factory on Knickerbocker Avenue a year ago, things have only gotten better, and this summer’s pair of multi-curator group shows 6<<<>>>6 (through July 21) is the best kind of slightly loony warm-month programming.
Courtesy Studio 10
Another 56 Bogart tenant (more on the building’s current dominance of the Brooklyn gallery on pg. 24), Annelie McGavin and Lawrence Greenberg’s space not only benefits from some of the best natural light of any Brooklyn gallery—seriously, the sunlight streaming in on a clear afternoon is aesthetic bliss—but also one of the neighborhood’s most stacked set of artists, and consistently thoughtful and well-hung shows.
Coming Together and People to Come, Courtesy Invisible Dog
With their four floors of studios, exhibition and performance spaces, director Lucien Zayan and associate director Risa Shoup program a jam-packed calendar that since 2009 has included some of the most ambitious and elaborate installations and group shows in the borough.
Ernesto Caivano Courtesy Pioneer Works
Though still very new, and having been dealt a blow by Sandy, Dustin Yellin’s vast converted Civil War-era warehouse in Red Hook has hosted some terrific solo shows—the current exhibition of Ernesto Caivano drawings, through July 31, may be the strongest yet—and benefits from an ambitious roster of artist-led classes and the Brooklyn branch of Soho-based residency program Recess. Its recently relandscaped sculpture garden is just the icing on the cake.
Now in its fourth decade, BRIC is one of the oldest non-profit art spaces in the borough, with consistently solid exhibitions, a top-notch emerging curator program, a very handy and deep artist registry, and a coveted arts fellowship. Its role in the local art community stands to expand drastically when it leaves its off-the-circuit Brooklyn Heights space for the new BRIC House on Fulton Street, which is slated to open later this year.
Courtesy Smack Mellon
With the slow demise of the DUMBO Arts Center, Smack Mellon stands as the waterfront neighborhood’s reigning non-profit, with its spectacular former boiler space hosting an exhibition program that, though at times uneven, is (at its best) absolutely unparalleled. Its semibasement studios, which had to be gut-renovated after Sandy, still host one of the borough’s most competitive residency programs.
Rachel Cohen's "Racoco Productions" which will be featured in Norte Maar's next project: Dance at Socrates Sculpture Park coming this August. Photo: Laura Silleras
Though this beloved Bushwick non-profit may not be large in size—when not involved in improbably enormous off-site shows or multi-disciplinary performances, it is housed in cofounder Jason Andrew’s Wyckoff Avenue apartment—its ambitions are huge, whether mounting a recent ballet showcasing women choreographers in London (curated by cofounder Julia K. Gleich) or organizing a superb exhibition of Brooklyn artists around a Giacometti drawing. Not bad for an apartment gallery!
Courtesy Open Source
One of just a few South Slope galleries still standing, Open Source and its cofounders Monika Wuhrer and Gary Baldwin have bounced back from the 2010 fire that consumed their tiny 17th Street space, expanding to a larger spot up the block where they continue to put on terrific exhibitions and host recurring mainstays like the Soup Kitchen’s collaborative meal happenings and the Soap Box Derby.
Courtesy Still House
This half-gallery, half-studio space on the Red Hook waterfront has been building steady buzz with a series of conceptually tight exhibitions showcasing some of the borough’s rising stars, including several Still House residents and, most recently, the crew behind the popular Tumblr The Jogging.
Don John and Fumi Mini Nakamura Courtesy Kunsthalle Galapagos
In the vast space atop Galapagos Art Space, Julie McKim, Erik Hougen and Gracie Kazer have built a tight-knit community of artists drawn from North and South Brooklyn through their ambitious shows and eclectic programming.
Since taking off in 2011, Lars Kremer, Liz Atzberger, and Kevin Andrew Curran have been putting on fun and thoughtful exhibitions in their basement (and backyard) gallery, including the most recent show Transmissions, which features an outpost in Tokyo.
Courtesy Gowanus Ballroom
Gowanus Ballroom Few places epitomize the idea of an alternative art space as perfectly as Gowanus Ballroom, which is housed in a working metal shop on the banks of the namesake canal and hosts some of the most elaborate and enormous installations you’ll see east of Burning Man, as well as wild parties and happenings—most recently, a piano was dropped three stories onto a pyramid of champagne flutes. Though it was badly damaged during Sandy, if anyone can rebuild faster and better, it’s this crew.
Photo by Donald Bowers
As the contemporary art curator at the borough’s foremost museum, Tsai presides over Brooklyn’s most coveted exhibition venue and has been a champion of emerging local artists, especially through shows like the ongoing Raw/Cooked series.
Photo by Robert Boyd
Though Hyperallergic launched just four years ago, it has surpassed the Brooklyn Rail (see below) as the borough’s foremost venue for art news and criticism—so much so that many of the Rail’s contributors have been making their way over to Hyperallergic—and its indefatigable editor-in-chief deserves much of the credit.
Photo by Nicola Delorme
The Brooklyn Rail’s publisher still helms one of the city’s foremost venues for art writing in print, often contributing stellar long-form interviews with major artists—including Joyce Pensato and Alice Aycock—while soliciting contributions from the likes of David Salle, Greg Lindquist, Lucy Lippard, Paul Schimmel, and others.
Photo by Paul Pagk
As the owner of 56 Bogart Street—which houses four of the aforementioned must-know galleries, among others, and several dozen studios—Hovivian acts as landlord to an exceptionally large and important chunk of the Brooklyn art scene, and now that he’s successfully turned his building into a gallery-magnet, it’s only a matter of time (or zoning) until he goes condo. That’s how gentrification works.
Photo Courtesy Hyperallergic
James Kalm/Loren Munk
In his pop-hued paintings of art neighborhoods old and new, Loren Munk documents shifts in the New York City scene, from the Soho-to-Chelsea gallery exodus to the East Village-Williamsburg-Bushwick artist migration. In his short videos, James Kalm captures the major museum and gallery shows going on at any given time in Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you ride your bike much, he has most certainly gone whizzing past you on his way between openings.
Archway Under The Manhattan Bridge Courtesy Brooklyn Arts Council
Brooklyn Arts Council
Between its many artist grant programs, its DUMBO gallery devoted to Brooklyn artists, its invaluable artist registry, and its vast directory of arts groups, the Brooklyn Arts Council is the closest thing you’ll find to Brooklyn Art 101.
Courtesy Triple Canopy
The Greenpoint-based art journal and space hosts some of the city’s smartest events—like April’s forum on the oft-ridiculed lingo of International Art English—and writing (with contributions from leading critics and contemporary artists), and regularly curates must-see off-site exhibitions.
Tobias Dostal Courtesy ISCP
Nestled at the end of Metropolitan Avenue on the Queens border, the International Studio and Curatorial Program not only runs a superb residency for artists and curators, but also hosts concept-driven group exhibitions, open studios, and a wealth of talks, screenings, and other special events.
Courtesy Triangle Arts Association
Triangle Arts Association
Between its six-month studio residency program and its two-week intensive studio workshop sessions, this DUMBO organization provides an invaluable resource for artists looking to finalize a particular project or series—as you can see for yourself by attending its open studios during September’s DUMBO Arts Festival.
We shouldn’t have to include it, but since we hear artists shamefacedly admit that they haven’t visited in ages (or, very rarely, ever), it bears reiterating: the Brooklyn Museum is a terrific institution, and its contemporary art offerings are world class (“Click!” and “Go” notwithstanding).