On one pleasantly sunny Saturday in April, a friend calls me up while having dimsum in uptown Manhattan and asks me what I’m up to that afternoon. I’m not particularly up for anything so I decide to meet up with him to go gallery hopping in Chelsea. Thanks to him, that afternoon turned out to be quite a cultivating one.
When people think of galleries, they think of Soho. True, Soho does have a lot of galleries. Nowadays, though, Soho is so saturated with tourists and all the commercialism, one wouldn’t go there to find cultivation, but rather, would go there to find shopping. And they can get plenty of it.
It’s the area between 22nd/26th Streets and 10th/11th Avenues of Chelsea that one would find a number of high-quality galleries right next to each other. Starting with the Dia Center for the Arts on 22nd Street, renovated warehouses exhibit artworks by many unknown and some quite well-known artists in a rather discreet and elegant manner.
At the Dia Center currently, there is an installation by Robert Irwin that is minimally stated yet exquisitely engaging and captivating. One floor of the building is divided into sixteen or so even squares by translucent screens. The room is obscurely illuminated by vertically placed double florescent light bulbs with colored celluloid paper. The space has an eerie symmetry that creates an otherworldly experience for the viewer.
Gagosian Gallery on 24th Street is showing a few pieces by German artist Anselm Kiefer, a regular in many art history textbooks. In one room of the gallery, suspiciously closed to the viewer, a huge globe hangs from the ceiling with an enormous chain. From a distance, it looks like a pile of garbage but up close, it is a ghostly miniature world of industrial trains on tracks. When one sees something as unexpected as this piece, it certainly leaves an impression.
On top of some surprisingly satisfying works of art you may discover on your visit to this area of Chelsea, one of the best things about this gallery scene somewhat secluded from other parts of Manhattan is the lack of tourists. All the streets are fairly sparse, as well as the galleries themselves, making the whole experience both cultural and relaxing.