Street art in New York is legendary, but back in its heyday of the 1980s, graffiti was considered to be a type of vandalism and was considered illegal. It usually alluded to crime or rough neighborhoods. Today, not only is street art considered a legitimate art form, but graffiti artists such as Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat have made millions from works made with spray paint, stencils, and tape. There are select galleries that focus on showcasing this medium, so admirers can come pay homage to such pieces. To see these exhibits by up-and-coming or established artists who got their start on the street, check out these galleries that specialize in exposing mixed-media and street art in New York City.
Jonathan LeVine Gallery
Engaging and inspiring, see tags and bubble letters up close at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. Here, you will find the works of contemporary graffiti and street artists such as Dan Witz and Space Invader. Since launching in 2005, this Chelsea space has exhibited all kinds of top street artists in New York City, displaying mediums like tape art, yarn looms, stickers, and mosaics. The artists are always revolving, so make sure to keep an eye on the gallery’s website for upcoming exhibits to check out year-round.
Museum of the City
See the past, present, and future of street art in New York at the Museum of the City of New York. As you walk into this conservative brick building, let your senses take control as you smell the fumes that create masterpieces. Approximately 750,000 prints, photographs, murals, installations, paintings, and sculptures fill the space. Check out The City Is My Muse by Chris “Daze” Ellis before it’s gone. This top graffiti artist hit the scene decades ago, using a combination of abstract forms to capture the energy of iconic NY locations like Times Square and Coney Island, and everyday street scenes.
Dorian Grey Gallery
Don’t be fooled by the literary context of the name of this gallery. Set in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the Dorian Grey Gallery is known for its talented emerging artists. Founded by veteran art dealers Christopher Pusey and Luis Accorsi, this East Village gem is the home of some of the most authentic works of street art connected to the history of this city. It continues to be the premier exhibition space for up-and-coming graffiti artists, and it also serves as a retail shop. Real street artists tend to flock here, most recently Kenny Scharf who made headlines for painting a mural on the roll-down gate outside the gallery.
Joshua Liner Gallery
Expect to experience fresh perspectives of contemporary mixed-media pieces that express both humanistic and futuristic qualities. Upcoming shows at Joshua include solo exhibits by painters Ian Francis and Oliver Vernon, but keep in mind that the artists and their pieces rotate frequently. The gallery recently moved floors to its current spacious ground-floor digs, which makes it a perfect destination for a celebration.
A pioneer in the art world, Woodward Gallery in the Lower East Side focuses on works by visionaries such as Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol. These masterpieces sit side-by-side at this destination. Of course, they don’t just display the work of artists who inspire graffiti artists. The Woodward Gallery Project Space across the street features a rotating street-art exhibition space.