When the Art Students League of New York moved its headquarters to 57th Street in 1892, it sowed the seeds of what would become New York’s first gallery district. The Fuller Building at 57th Street and Madison Avenue was built in 1929 with lower floors designed with high ceilings and other features specifically to accommodate art dealers; for several years after its founding in 1929, the Museum of Modern Art operated out of a building on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Although Chelsea might today claim the title of Manhattan’s gallery district, 57th Street and its surrounding blocks are still home to myriad art dealers. And as is only fitting for the neighborhood that is home to MoMA, many of them specialize in contemporary art. Below is just a selection.
16 East 55th Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues)
“Foghorn Hits the Road” by Nicole Eisenman, one of the artists represented by Anton Kern Gallery. Image: Wikimedia
The Anton Kern Gallery moved to Midtown just this year, having been founded in 1996 in SoHo and then spending more than 15 years in Chelsea. Upcoming exhibits include solo shows from Alessandro Pessoli, whose sculptures and paintings, despite their sometimes brilliant colors, evoke a sense of melancholy, and Lara Schnitger, best known for oversize sculptural constructions of fabric, wood, and other materials. Nicole Eisenman, a 2015 winner of a MacArthur “genius grant” is among the other artists the gallery represents.
37 West 57th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
Late luminaries including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Keith Haring, and Robert Rauschenberg are among the artists represented by this gallery, but numerous active artists are on the roster too, such as Miquel Barceló and Hew Locke.
24 West 57th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
“Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian” by Michael Richards, the subject of a show at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art. Image: Nathania Johnson/Wikimedia
Like Edward Tyler Nahem across the street, this gallery specializes in both 20th- century and contemporary artists. Its current exhibition, running through November 17, is devoted to sculptor Michael Richards. Best known for the evocative “Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian,” which will be featured in the show, Richards was among those killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Marcel Duchamp, Don Joint, Carlo Maria Mariani, and Man Ray were among the subjects of recent solo shows.
41 East 57th Street (at Madison Avenue)
A work by Annelies Štrba, an artist represented by Jason McCoy Gallery. Image: Galerie Rudolfinum/Wikimedia
Since its founding in 1982, the Jason McCoy Gallery has placed works with MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, and other world-renowned museums. In addition to representing current artists including Kenneth Blom, whose paintings are defined by bold brushstrokes and the depictions of open spaces, and Annelies Štrba, whose haunting works combine photography and digital media, its roster includes the estates of Bernard Childs and Charles Pollock, among others. Photographer Anders Overgaard is the subject of the gallery’s current exhibition.
24 West 57th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
A sculpture by Tony Cragg, whose new works are the subject of a show at the Marian Goodman Gallery. Image: Sam Sunders/Flickr
Representing contemporary artists since 1977, the Marian Goodman Gallery currently counts conceptual artist Lothar Baumgarten, video and installation artist Dara Birnbaum, Turner Prize winner (and director of “12 Years a Slave”) Steve McQueen, multigenre painter Gerhard Richter, and photographer/cinematographer Yang Fudong among its roster. An exhibition of new sculptures by Tony Cragg is currently showing.
40 West 57th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
The New York outpost of venerable London-based Marlborough Gallery represents glass artist Dale Chihuly, photorealist painter Richard Estes, multimedia maestro Red Grooms, and sculptor Kcho, among numerous others. New works by Tom Otterness, whose quietly whimsical “Life Underground” series of bronze sculptures is on permanent display at the 14th Street-Eight Avenue subway station, are the subject of the gallery’s current show.
Part of “Life Underground” by Tom Otterness, who is represented by Marlborough Gallery New York. Image: dancingdentist/Flickr
745 Fifth Avenue (between 57th and 58th Streets)
Mary Boone has been a mover and shaker in the contemporary art world since founding her first gallery in 1978. She has been in this location since 1996; a second gallery is in Chelsea. David Salle and Julian Schnabel were her first artists, but her current roster is no less notable; it includes Ai Weiwei, known as much for his activism as for his installations; painters Ross Bleckner and Francesco Clemente; and visual artist Barbara Kruger. The current exhibition at the Fifth Avenue gallery is of new paintings by Will Cotton, whose works often incorporate depictions of desserts as a commentary on both gluttony and beauty.
32 East 57th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
This 57th Street gallery is one of three that Pace operates in Manhattan (the other two are in Chelsea); it also has galleries in Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Seoul, and Palo Alto, CA. The active artists and estates represented are a who’s who of 20th-and 21st-century luminaries, including Chuck Close, David Hockney, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Louis Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Kiki Smith, and Saul Steinberg. Through October 21, the 57th Street gallery is showing its first solo exhibit of works by the late abstract painter John Hoyland.