The Complete Guide to Contemporary Art in New York

New York City is one of the most important places in the world when it comes to first-class museums and exhibitions. Every creative era is represented here; from contemporary art to modern art and abstract art, just to name a few. This wide range of cultural and artistic diversity illustrates just why New York City is called a melting pot.

In my guide to contemporary art in New York City, I will show you the most important museums, art exhibitions, and galleries that specialize in showcasing art from this era. Starting with world-famous museums like the New Museum of Contemporary Art or MoMA PS1, to small galleries in SoHo, the Lower East Side, and Chelsea, NYC has a wide range of art attractions to see.

So, if you’re looking for the most important contemporary art venues in New York City, you’re guaranteed to find it here!

The Best Contemporary Art Museums in NYC

New York City is famous for its contemporary art museums. The New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Whitney Museum are just two attractions that are at the top of the list. The Museum of Modern Art also has many exhibitions from the genre of contemporary art, despite it’s name possibly suggesting otherwise.

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    01 New Museum of Contemporary Art

    The New Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Its contemporary art exhibitions are among the best in the world. Founded in 1977, the New Museum of Contemporary Art building was designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA and is one of the most striking buildings in NYC.

  2. Museum of Arts and Design

    02 Museum of Arts and Design

    The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) at Columbus Circle is dedicated to contemporary crafts and design. The museum shop is fantastic and offers a range of items centered around design. Be sure to drop in at the café for a break and enjoy the fabulous view of Central Park. 

    Every Thursday there is a 50% discount on the ticket (from 4 to 7 p.m.). Since the MAD is one of the smaller museums, you don’t have to wait much. By the way: every Friday and Saturday there is a free tour at 11.30 a.m..

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    03 MoMa PS1

    Everyone knows about the Museum of Modern Art, which is also known as MoMa, but very few have heard of MoMa PS1. This institution is located in Long Island City in Queens and is often overlooked at by locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the largest art institutions in the US and heavily focuses on contemporary art. It was founded in 1971 and attracts over 200,000 people per year. Also, during warmer months, the this museum sets up Sunday sessions with a live DJ and is known as the PS1 Warm Up.

  4. Contemporary Art NYC

    04 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was founded in 1929 and was the first museum that completely focused its collection on modern art. The huge museum went through an impressive renovation and reopened in 2004 by architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. Then in MoMa went through another round of renovations and reopened in October of 2019. It is definitely one of the most impressive museums in NYC. It’s one of the largest and most influential museums with its collection of modern art.

  5. Metropolitan Museum of Art

    05 Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET)

    A visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York (The MET) is more than just an ordinary visit to an art museum. With more than 2 million artworks that span from more than 5,000 years, visitors will soon realize this institution is very special. Exhibits are spread out over 2,000,000 square feet of floor space. That makes it the largest art museum in the United States. The museum is a must-visit and is perfect for families with kids. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents the best of art history from around the world.

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    06 Rubin Museum of Arts

    For three decades, New Yorkers Shelley and Donald Rubin have been collecting Buddhist art, mandalas and meditation images here. The exhibitions of contemporary Asian artists are very impressive.

  7. Asia Society Museum

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The 20 Best Contemporary Art Galleries in NYC

In addition to museums specializing in contemporary art, New York City is also home to a wide variety of contemporary art galleries. They range from world-famous exhibitions, such as the David Zwirner Gallery, to smaller exhibitions such as the Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery.

These are the best art galleries focusing on contemporary art: 

  1. Arcadia Contemporary Soho Best Art Galleries NYC

    01 Arcadia Contemporary

    Arcadia Contemporary Gallery was founded in 2001 and had its first location in Soho New York. It has had its current name since 2014, originally it was called Arcadia Fine Arts. After moving to Pasadena/California from 2016 to 2021, it has been back in Soho since 2021. This time in the Soho Art District on West Broadway. 

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    02 Jeffrey Deitch

    Anyone who’s a fan of New York City’s contemporary art scene knows the name, Jeffrey Deitch. He’s an esteemed curator and art dealer who’s best known for his gallery that operated from 1996 until 2010 called Deitch Projects, where he curated projects such as Post Human and Lives. After shuttering his art gallery, Deitch moved to Los Angeles, where he served as the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) director until 2013. 

  3. LUMAS Art Gallery in SoHo NYC

    03 LUMAS Gallery SoHo

    LUMAS is a contemporary art and photography gallery that features work from artists around the globe. Many guests enjoy LUMAS because they feature works from upcoming and established artists, so they feature a diverse collection of art, which is evident the moment you step through the door or visit their website. 

    Unlike some galleries, LUMAS aims to price and position their works in ways that are more accessible to collectors just starting out and definitely lean toward a style that can be described as a modern aesthetic. When visiting LUMAS’ Soho location, each work is meticulously displayed using acrylic mounts and museum-quality paper for printing, so even without a frame, they still look great in many environments. 

  4. Georges Berges Gallery NYC

    04 Eden Gallery SoHo

    The Eden Gallery is an international contemporary art gallery with locations in NYC, Miami, Mykonos, London, and, soon, in Dubai. It was founded by Cathia Kimovsky in 1997 and has since grown into a worldwide network of high-end galleries that represent a multitude of international artists, each of whom has its own unique and modern approach to art. The artists from Eden Gallery collectively promote and represent contemporary optimism and colorful views of life. 

    In each of Eden’s gallery spaces worldwide, it’s evident that they operate at the forefront of vibrant, modern culture with a spirit of commitment to the community among their curators, supporters, and artists. At this gallery, you’ll find pieces of art that are held to the highest standards and events, experiences, and exhibitions that are not only unforgettable but will leave you transformed and inspired. 

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    05 Magenta Plains Gallery

    Magenta Plains is a contemporary art gallery located in the Lower East Side of New York City directed by Olivia Smith, Chris Dorland and David Deutsch. Magenta Plains is a young gallery with a relatively small program that prioritizes artists with unique voices, like Ebecho Muslimova and Alex Kwartler. Their strength lies in the careful selection, prioritizing quality over quantity and fostering context and meaning for the development of new ideas (94 Allen Street).

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    06 Alexander and Bonin

    Alexander and Bonin Gallery was formed in 1995 by Ted Bonin and Carolyn Alexander. The primary focus of the collaboration was to support and represent the work of mid-career, established, and emerging contemporary international visionaries. Since its opening, the Alexander and Bonin Gallery has established a reputation for maintaining a diverse and rigorous program. 

    The gallery was located in Chelsea on 10th Avenue from 1997 until 2016, when it moved to Walker Street in Tribeca, but is currently located in Soho on Wooster Street. Though the final move was not a significant move geographically, it allowed the partners to accurately represent 22 artists specializing in many types of contemporary art. You’ll find everything from contemporary sculptures and paintings to videos in this gallery. 

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    07 Jack Shainman Gallery

    Contemporary works by African, Asian & North American artists are exhibited at this Chelsea gallery. Jack Shaiman is committed to cultural diversity, championing artists from around the world, in particular, artists from Africa, East Asia, and North America. 

    As an important member of the international art scene, Shainman backs major artists like Nick Cave and Kerry James Marshall as well as up and comers Paul Anthony Smith, not only exhibiting in the gallery and at fairs, but securing museum exhibitions and publishing scholarly essays as well (513 W 20th Street).

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    08 June Kelly Gallery

    The June Kelly Gallery is a contemporary art gallery founded in 1987 within NYC’s historic Soho district. This gallery specializes in contemporary sculptures, paintings, photography, and drawings while representing works from a diverse group of established, mid-career, and emerging artists, many of whom have already achieved international acclaim and recognition. 

    In the past, exhibitions displayed by the June Kelly Gallery have received numerous art world publication reviews from companies such as The New York Times, Art in America, and Sculpture Magazine. Such publications have not only profiled represented artists but have also featured the gallery on the cover. 

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    09 David Zwirner

    David Zwirner is a German art dealer. He comes from a family of artists and grew up with an art studio on the ground floor of where he lived.  He opened his first gallery space in the SoHo neighborhood. In total, there are 3 locations in NY – 19th Street, 20th Street, and 69th Street. In Hong Kong, his gallery is on Queen’s Road Central. In London, you’ll find his gallery on Grafton Street, and in Paris, you’ll see the gallery on rue Vieille du Temple.

    Zwirner specializes in contemporary art, representing emerging artists as well as historically important artists such as Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Christopher Wool, Jeff Koons, and Gilbert & George. He began re-establishing links with artists of the older generation, including John Baldessari, Robert Motherwell, and Brice Marden, whose work he had first encountered as a student in California.

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    10 Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery

    The Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City; which is where you will find several art galleries for your perusal.

    The gallery was founded in 2004 by Matthew Chase, Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy, Robert Hult, and Sam Wilson.

  11. Martin Lawrence Galleries in SoHo NYC

    11 Martin Lawrence Galleries Soho

    Soho’s most prominent contemporary art collection is located at Martin Lawrence Galleries on Broadway. Here you’ll discover an exceptional collection that comprises cutting-edge exhibits and the world’s most extensive Andy Warhol collection. This gallery sets itself apart from other Soho art galleries in that they house many original works by iconic artists such as Keith Haring, Rembrandt, Chagall, Picasso, Takashi Murakami, Sam Francis, and many others. 

    And what’s even better is that Martin Lawrence Galleries is located in a magnificent two-story building right in the heart of New York’s best shopping and fine dining district – Soho! This is one art gallery that provides unparalleled art buying experiences for collectors of all ages. 

  12. Krause Gallery Lower East Side NYC

    12 Krause Gallery

    The variety of artforms, and artists presented at the Krause Gallery make this one a must visit. You’ll notice paintings, sculpture, and mostly contemporary art.

    The Krause Gallery has entered the world of NFT’s. NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, and is the latest craze in the art world (a NFT is a digital asset that is unlike any other).

  13. Ronald Feldman Gallery in SoHo NYC

    13 Ronald Feldman Gallery

    The Ronald Feldman Gallery is a pioneer in the world of contemporary art. The gallery has called the lush Soho district home since 1971, where it still exhibits drawings, media, paintings, sculptures, film, and new media. It was initially known as Ronald Feldman Fine Arts and was first opened in November of 1971 on East 74th Street by Frayda and Ronald Feldman. However, soon after, they began operating exhibition spaces both downtown and uptown. They would continue to do so until after the season of 1982, at which point they decided to consolidate to their current location on Mercer Street. 

    The name was changed to Ronald Feldman Gallery in 2017 and has remained at the forefront of NYC’s contemporary art scene even in the face of a pandemic. Though the times have changed, the gallery has continued to work with team members, clients, and artists remotely. Another change has been the way guests are able to view Feldman’s art. At this time, the gallery is closed to in-person visits, but they feature many virtual exhibits with information available via social media and their website. 

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    14 Gagosian Gallery

    The Gagosian Gallery has several locations in New York. It is one of the most important places for contemporary art and should be on your must-see list! Of the six different locations in New York, 555 West 24th Street and 541 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District are the ones I can highly recommend.

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    15 Derek Eller Gallery

    Like many of the famous art galleries, the Derek Eller Gallery relocated from Chelsea to the Lower East Side. It has been around since 1997 and focuses on contemporary artists.

    Many of the artists are well established, but do not have the visibility that they need, and several artists are just emerging. This combination makes the Derek Eller Gallery stick out. They showcase their artists works through art fairs, as well as exhibitions.

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    16 James Fuentes LLC

    James Fuentes LLC is a contemporary art gallery located in the heart of New York City. The gallery was founded in 2007 by James Fuentes in the Lower East Side and specializes in presenting innovative and experimental artwork by both emerging and established artists.

    James Fuentes LLC has earned a reputation for showcasing some of the most exciting new artwork on the art scene today. The gallery exhibits include site-specific installations, sculptures, and video work by artists such as Al Souza, Edgar Arceneaux, Jim Radagast, Lou Beach, Toby Buonagurio, Vincent Fecteau, Mike Kuchar, Brooke Shaden, Jules DeBalincourt, and many more.

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    17 Sonnabend Gallery

    The Sonnabend Gallery is an acclaimed art gallery located in Soho that’s known for showcasing contemporary American and European artists from the ‘60s and ‘70s. It first opened in Paris in 1962 and was influential in helping make 1960s American art famous in Europe, with a focus on American Pop Art. Sonnabend Gallery opened its first location in New York City in 1970 on Madison Avenue, but the following year relocated to West Broadway in Soho, where it became a primary protagonist that helped Soho become an epicenter in the international art world. 

    Yet not only did Sonnabend Gallery work to make American art famous in Europe, but it also worked the other way as well, as they were instrumental in making 1970s European art famous in the United States. Their focus for ‘70s European art was on Arte Povera and types of conceptual art. The gallery also presented American minimalist and abstract art of the 1970s, and then in 1986 introduced the so-called show called “Neo-Geo,” which introduced the world to artist Jeff Koons, among others. 

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    18 Team Gallery

    Team Gallery is a contemporary art gallery. It was founded in 1996 by José Freire and Lisa Ruyter.

  19. NoHo gallery NYC

    19 bitforms gallery

    The bitforms gallery is a contemporary art gallery that features mid-career artists utilizing the latest technologies in New York City. The Bitforms gallery was founded in 2001 with the idea that A world-renowned contemporary visual art gallery, bitforms is home to established artists and those on the rise.

    bitforms is a cutting edge gallery that represents established and emerging artists with new technologies in their work. It’s no surprise that technology is recognized an important niche in the market at large. Nowadays we are used seeing images projected onto tablets during live performances but not that long ago this was unheard of.

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    20 Woodward Gallery

    Located near the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Woodward Gallery is a contemporary fine arts gallery that you will be happy you visited. It was founded in 1994 by John Woodward and Kristine Woodward, a husband and wife team. Their focus is on celebrating culture through inclusivity, and have worked to collaborate with their professional contacts to help find those rare pieces of art.

    The gallery started out in Soho, and moved a few times, before ending up in the Lower East Side.

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This itinerary contains over 50 spots and highlights of the city, including a map that shows you the best way to travel each day, taking you to or past the many big attractions. In addition, we‘ve added our favorite places, from great breakfast spots to start your day right to small bars and restaurants and hidden insider spots.

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Best Neighborhoods to Explore Contemporary Art in New York

The neighborhoods with the most contemporary art exhibitions are undoubtedly Chelsea, SoHo, the Lower East Side and Midtown Manhattan. Everything you need to know about these neighborhoods can be found in our neighborhood guides.

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FAQ

The Difference Between Modern, Contemporary, and Abstract Art

When you hear Modern, Contemporary, and Abstract Art, you might be confused about these differences, and you’re not alone. Many people don’t know the difference between these three styles of art.

One main difference between Modern, Contemporary, and Abstract Art is when they were created. Modern Art began in the late 1800s while Contemporary Art started around 1960. Abstract Art emerged in the early 1900s.

Modern Art

Modern art is a term that was coined in the 19th century, and it typically refers to works within the time period of 1880-1960. This type of work often depicts real-life situations rather than fantasy or older styles from centuries ago. For example, artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Paul Cezanne are known for their works during this time.

Modern art is also referred to as Post-Impressionism. Many people use these terms interchangeably because they were born around the same period of time (the late 1800s). However, there is a slight difference between the two. Post-Impressionism is a style of painting that came after Impressionism, which was the first modern movement in art. Some popular examples of Modern Art are Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Contemporary Art

Contemporary art is basically anything created after 1960 up until today, however, some say that if it is created in the near future, then it should be considered contemporary. This type of work generally has a story to tell and an idea behind its creation which makes us think about something on a deeper level.

Contemporary art can be seen as a continuation of modernism but with more emphasis on the subject matter and social commentary. Some of this art is created digitally, and it can be interactive.
Some famous contemporary artists are Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Yoko Ono.

Abstract Art

Abstract art refers to artwork that does not depict anything from reality or fantasy; rather abstract artists want their audience to interpret what they see in their work. This type of art emerged in the early 20th century and has been around ever since. Some famous abstract artists include Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Jackson Pollock.

Abstract art is an even broader term for any piece that lacks recognizable imagery or representational qualities. This can be a painting, sculpture, or any other type of artwork. Some common abstract art styles are geometric abstraction, lyrical abstraction, and color field painting.

Each era of art tells us something about that time period; for example, Modernism showed us how people were starting to break away from traditional ways of painting and sculpture. Contemporary art is constantly evolving, and it has something to offer for everyone. Abstract art can be interpreted in many ways, and that’s what makes it so unique.

About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!

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