New York is still arguably the capital of the art world despite the globalization of the art market. Art in America's "2004 Guide to Galleries, Museums, Artists" lists 837 galleries, exhibition spaces, auction houses and museums in New York City. Add the resources of the surrounding area and the number comes to well over 1,000.
For the new collector this array of art can be overwhelming but with a bit of study New York provides the would-be collector, the established collector, or those who just delight in the visual arts the opportunity to experience and/or purchase art like no other place in the world.
For those living in New York there is an unceasing schedule of changing exhibitions. For those visiting New York there are blockbuster exhibitions at the museums, retrospective exhibitions of major artists and cutting edge art to see. For artists, New York is "the" market and to have a New York gallery is the mark of success.
The monetary impact of the New York art scene is so significant that over the years New York banks have offered specialized services to collectors, while auction house prices are as closely watched as the stock market.
There are a wide variety of ways to approach New York galleries. One can visit them in the various geographical areas of the city: uptown; midtown; downtown; and outlying areas.
Uptown galleries have the advantage of being close to some of the great museums of New York like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, or smaller venues like the Frick Collection or the National Academy of Design. It is not unusual to find exhibitions at the museums complimented by exhibitions at nearby galleries featuring the name artists or work from the same period.
For example, take Berry-Hill Gallery which features 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th- century American paintings and sculpture, old masters, French Impressionism, modern paintings, and contemporary art. Or visit Hirschel & Adler Galleries which features American and European paintings, watercolors, drawings, American prints of all periods, American furniture and decorative arts from 1890 to 1910. Also uptown are some of the great European galleries; American outposts like Wildenstern and Co. which features Old Masters, Impressionist and modern paintings and drawings. Or see the Leo Castelli Gallery which features contemporary paintings, drawings, and sculpture.
Midtown - with the Museum of Modern Art and The American Folk Art Museum - offers its own wide array of galleries, especially in the 57th Street area. For example, The Pace Wildenstein Gallery which offers modern and contemporary paintings, drawings, sculpture, and video; at the same location are Pace Master Prints, Pace Primitive Gallery, Pace Prints, and Pace/McGill Gallery which features 20th- Century photography. Or see nearby James Robinson, Inc. which features antique jewelry, silver, objects, porcelain and glass. Of interest to collectors of American art are the Spanierman Gallery or the Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery in the famous Fuller Building on East 57th Street.
The third major area of concentration are downtown which begins with Soho and spreads throughout lower Manhattan. Some of the original galleries are O.K. Harris Works of Art which features contemporary painting, sculpture and photography, collectibles and Americana. Nearby in the Nancy Hoffman Gallery which shows contemporary painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture.
Here you can find the Dia Center for the Arts' various locations on West Broadway, Wooster Street and in Chelsea. The number of galleries in downtown New York is very fluid with many openings and closings, but the overall experience is that everything that is cutting edge can be found here. Two examples will illustrate the area's wide range of art; The Woodward Gallery which features modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, and works on paper or the Heller Gallery which features contemporary glass and wood sculpture.
A visit to any of these three areas can take a day or several days and yet you will not have exhausted the rich variety that exists in each section of the city.
Another approach a visitor to the galleries and museums might take is to specialize in a particular area, for example the American Hudson River School. You can begin with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then go to galleries that feature the Hudson River School painters. Visitors from Asia will enjoy museums like the Asia Society and Museum of the Japan Society Gallery as well as galleries specializing in contemporary Asian art and antiquities.
From the examples listed above you can see that many galleries offer a wide diversity of artistic media from painting to sculpture, the decorative arts and even collectables. Likewise many galleries are very single-mindedly concentrating just on photography or furniture or glass art.
Another important aspect of the New York gallery scene, are the dealers themselves. Many great collections have been assembled because of the dealers who guided collectors and found the great pieces that eventually ended up in museums. Do not hesitate to introduce yourself and make your interests known.
If you think what is on display in the gallery is impressive, ask to see other work which is not on display and you will be amazed at the holdings that many of the galleries have in their back rooms.
Dealers are often willing to bargain and offer discounts to frequent customers. They will often buy back art from their customers who wish to upgrade their collections.
There are also many private dealers in New York who do not operate out of a gallery per se but have access to great works of art. And for businesses interested in art there are corporate consultants. Many of the great corporate collections of the world have been put together with the aid of dealers in New York. And of course there are universities and art schools' collections, exhibition spaces, courses, and seminars to enhance one's appreciation.
Moreover, New York has some of the greatest art bookstores. Out of print and hard to find books are found in these stores. They can be almost as interesting as the galleries and museums themselves. There are many gallery guides available and the yearly Art in America guide is a valuable resource.
Any visit to the New York art market should include a visit to the auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's or any of the many smaller houses. A visit to auctions followed by visits to galleries that handle particular artists you saw sold will give you a good idea of what the price range of a particular artist is.
No short article like this can do justice to the richness and diversity of the New York art world. You have to see it to believe it. The next time you go to New York plan to spend part of your visit going to the galleries and museums. It will enrich your life and, if you are a collector, quite possibly add to your collection.