Seen any good shows lately? I find myself asking this question to anyone who will listen in an attempt to narrow down the sheer number of exhibitions on view at any given time in New York. And with new art spaces cropping up all over the city, the task of deciding what’s really worth two or three subway transfers isn’t about to get any easier. Below, we rounded up seven art galleries and nonprofits — all in Manhattan, with other boroughs to come soon! — that opened in the last year or so, rising from the ashes after the pandemic brought the art world to a screeching halt. From cyborgs to felt reliefs to a contemporary art gallery in a historic East Village punk-rock nightclub, these new kids on the block have something for everyone.
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Theta Gallery, whose entrance is via a pair of metal sidewalk cellar doors on Franklin Street in Tribeca — the kind that more typically leads to a restaurant’s basement, not a contemporary art gallery — opened last April and is currently showing artist Spencer Lai’s Academy for the Sensitive Arts. Felted reliefs hang from the walls next to bright steel collages that look like toddlers’ puzzles, and wigged cylinders with round noses sit on low tables. The tactile works, and the sculptures’ low display height, make the room feel like a children’s playroom, but a closer inspection reveals something darker — Lai’s forms draw on historical propaganda imagery and issue a reminder that we start receiving this information at a young age, whether we like it or not. Theta was founded by Jordan Barse, an artist, writer, and former director of Kimberly-Klark Gallery in Queens. — Elaine Velie
Theta Gallery (theta.nyc)
184 Franklin Street, Tribeca, Manhattan
Brief Histories opened its second-floor Bowery location just shy of a year ago, but the project began over a decade ago in response to the Arab Spring. As protests unfolded, co-founder, director, and curator of the gallery Fawz Kabra began reaching out to friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to collect artistic responses to the major historical and political events, distressed by the restrictions on freedom of expression that reigned in many of the affected countries. Now, with a permanent space she co-runs with artist Isak Berbic, these artistic gestures can be seen in new ways, by new audiences. So far, the gallery has presented five shows, including its current exhibition Late Night Strollers, spotlighting the work of Berlin-based Palestinian Jumana Manna. Beyond putting on shows, Brief Histories publishes a magazine and seasonally operates an ice cream wagon for fundraising purposes. — Jasmine Liu
Brief Histories (briefhistories.art)
115 Bowery, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Center for Art, Research and Alliances
The building that now houses the Center for Art, Research and Alliances (CARA) on 13th Street has had many lives: It was once a playing card factory, a plumbing supply store, and the recording studio of New York’s own LCD Soundsystem. Now, it’s the stage for exhibitions, performances, book launches (most recently for a new publication on photographer Marilyn Nance), and more — all free and open to the public. CARA was started by a co-founder of the now-shuttered Wallspace Gallery, Jane Hait, and unlike so many contemporary art spaces, it feels warm and welcoming. A row of whimsical chairs designed by Manuel Raeder and Rodolfo Samperio are arranged in order from tiny to gigantic in the lobby-slash-bookstore. When I asked if I could sit in one, Emmy Catedral, curator of public programs, replied, “Of course, that’s what they’re there for — we don’t want anything too precious in here.” The exhibition currently on view, A Mass of Cyborgs, has a similar empathetic regard for its audiences. Artist and composer Neo Muyanga weaves music, voices, digital animation, and sculpture to rouse reflections on histories of oppression. — VD
Center for Art, Research and Alliances (cara-nyc.org)
225 West 13th Street, West Village, Manhattan
There’s no shortage of things to look at inside Someday Gallery, founded by Rosie Motley, which is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Steps from the Canal Street subway stop, the building’s elevator opens straight into the third-floor gallery space, an un-renovated gem with old wood floors, a tin ceiling, and lots of visible pipes and wiring. On view is artist Oba’s stunning Nosferasta, for which the artist has created intricate mixed-media sculptures that evoke art historical religious imagery (plus a Mona Lisa) with small objects and coats of glitter. The show also includes a loop of Oba’s 2021 narrative feature Nosferasta: First Bite, made in collaboration with filmmakers Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer. The film recounts Oba’s fictional origin story as a Rastafarian vampire who was bitten by Christopher Columbus and helped him spread the scourge of colonialism throughout the “new world.” — EV
Someday Gallery (somedaygallery.com)
120 Walker Street, 3R, Chinatown, Manhattan
When I arrived at Canal Projects, I must confess, I was turned off by the fact that its doors and windows were completely blocked off by blackout shades, making it impossible for curious passersby to peep inside. Then I stepped in and understood why. The nonprofit is currently showing Pray, a two-part multimedia installation by Korakrit Arunanondchai and Alex Gvojic whose mystical aura is heightened by total darkness. The feeling of being transported from bustling Canal Street right into a deep blue, immediately unsettling space was so much more exciting than walking into yet another white cube. Canal Projects opened on September 29 with the support of the YS Kim Foundation, and with two floors and 5,800 square feet of exhibition space, it aims to show three local and international artists a year. — VD
Canal Projects (canalprojects.org)
351 Canal Street, Lower Manhattan
Amanita just opened in late September on the Lower East Side at the historic address where the nightclub CBGB birthed punk rock in the 1970s and ’80s. (In the basement of the gallery, visitors will find a mural of jumping figurines spray painted directly onto the brick wall, a CBGB newsprint collage, and a wall plastered with stickers over a bathroom sink likely later constructed as a homage to the defunct club.) The gallery was founded a year and a half ago with its first location in Florence. Caio Twombly, grandson of Cy Twombly and one of three partners of the space, told Hyperallergic that Amanita is particularly focused on bringing work by young, contemporary Italian artists to New Yorkers, and aims to put on nine shows a year. Currently, a set of velvet “paintings” by Florentine artist Leonardo Meoni hang on the gallery’s walls. — JL
313 Bowery, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Instituto de Visión
Far from a newcomer to the art world, Instituto de Visión opened its doors in 2014 in the San Felipe neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia, intent on bringing greater visibility to conceptual practices sidelined by the Latin American art historical canon. But earlier this year, the gallery opened its first outpost in the US right here in New York City, kicking off with a solo show of works by Alexandra Gelis and Modou Dieng Yacine. Currently on view is Colombian artist Nohemí Pérez’s solo exhibition El bosque en llamas, a continuation of her series examining El Catatumbo, a region where scourges from mining exploration to armed conflict have converged to threaten flora, fauna, and natural resources. The gallery was founded by four women: Omayra Alvarado, Karen Abreu, Beatriz López, and María Wills. — VD
Instituto de Visión (institutodevision.com)
88 Eldridge Street, 5th floor, Bowery, Manhattan
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