The L Magazine
A Crash Course on the Brooklyn Art Scene
By Benjamin Sutton
June 19, 2013
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?)
Brooklyn’s 10 Most Important Galleries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.