going to the galleries

When I first started going to the galleries in New York, the art scene was mostly located in Soho. Everyone on the street was either an artist or an art appreciator. There were no boutique shops or comfort food chains in the area yet. The smell of bread baking from a bakery outlet on the corner of Spring and Wooster Streets added to the atmosphere of the place. The area was transitioning from dark cast-iron factory buildings into bright modern gallery spaces. Artists were living illegally in makeshift lofts and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” was at the top of the charts.

I hear myself saying, “Those were the good old days,” but I know better. The art world is always evolving and the artist has to evolve with it or get left behind. Now it’s the Chelsea art scene which has matured into thriving galleries up and down the streets between 10th and 11th Avenues.  

When I go to the galleries, it’s more like a boot camp experience than a leisurely day in the city. Mostly, I’m on a quest to see every possible piece of art in the three or four hours I have. This is not for the faint hearted, I know. There are so many galleries in Chelsea, it’s just impossible to give them the kind of slow consideration I would give a museum exhibit. Still, I want to absorb as much as I can. This is why I don’t map out any of the places in advance. I want to be surprised when I walk through the door. I like to discover new artists without having to depend on reviews or other people’s opinions.

I also feel sometimes ideas float around in the air, and if I’m not out there looking, I might miss them. This is why I go to the galleries in the first place. I want to walk into something that will haunt me long after I leave the building. Artists have always borrowed ideas from each other; it’s how things evolve. The trick is to make what I see into my own language and push myself beyond my own boundaries. Most galleries have postcards with pictures of the work they display. I collect all of them without questioning whether I like the work or not. This is great material to revisit later in quiet leisure.

Many of the galleries close for vacations in August and open again for the new season in September. I look forward to seeing what this year will bring.