Word of Mouth: NYC’s LES Galleries

Spaces for inspiration and community in the vibrant neighborhood

Art can be isolating or divisive and, as PUBLIC SWIM co-founder Catherine Fenton Bernath points out, producing artistic work can prove isolating as well. But within the walls of galleries, visitors gather inspiration and see entirely new points of view. Galleries provide space for communities to form and play a vital role within the ecosystem of the art world.

While NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood is perhaps best-known, right now, for its plethora of galleries, the Lower East Side is home to plenty of wondrous art spaces too. From the tiny to the iconic and the ever-growing, here are some of our favorites in the eclectic NYC neighborhood.


Now officially open, PUBLIC SWIM—which is owned and curated by Madeleine Mermall and the aforementioned Fenton Bernath—arrives on the LES art scene with the intention of democratizing shows and sales. Pieces will be presented “salon style” and priced fairly, in the hope that more visitors will turn into collectors. The gallery’s first show, Elements of Existence, aims to investigate the “intimate and uncanny aspects of our quotidian environments.” With ceramic, sculptural, painted, and even puppet work, there’s something within their cozy showroom for every visitor. Hillary Doyle’s mixed-media subway scene in the window, and the paintings inside that continue the tale are sure to impress.

Hashimoto Contemporary

The NYC outpost of Hashimoto Contemporary (the other is located in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood) is a small but mighty gallery on Rivington Street. Representing talent that includes Jeffrey Cheung and Jessica Hess, Hashimoto Contemporary has also exhibited a vast array of work by artists like Dan Lam, Katie Kimmel and Lorien Stern. Currently Brooklyn-based Brian A Whiteley’s I Know What You Did Last Summer: A Mid Career Retrospective is on, containing sculpture, fabric work, video, and painting—many of which address the current state of US politics.

Chinatown Soup

Founded in 2014, Chinatown Soup mirrors the efforts of Detroit Soup, a non-profit dedicated to benefitting young artists through dining experiences. But the space furthers its reach by offering residencies; operating its own gallery; granting studio space to zine-makers, painters and other artists; and maintaining its own coffee shop. Within the gallery, the overruling aura of the “art world” is absent. Artwork, done by individuals of all levels and locations, might have been completed in Chinatown Soup’s studio or it might be a part of a the space’s visionary approach to gallery shows, to “make alternative narratives visible.”


Perrotin is a prominent name within the art world, as Emmanual Perrotin established the first of his galleries in the Marais back in 1990 and represented Maurizio Cattelan and Takashi Murakami early on. With locations in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai, Perrotin finds its NYC home on the Lower East Side. Right now, Jesper Just’s stunning solo show Corporealités is on, a sculptural installation of various LED pieces arranged with multi-channel video works.

98 Orchard

Born from a partnership between brewery Pabst Blue Ribbon and publication Monster Children, 98 Orchard hosts a long list of one-night events and ongoing gallery exhibitions—and almost always extends the square footage to projects done by and for the local community of artists. From video installations about black existence to a self-led photo competition (with an accompanying party to the celebrate the winners), the gallery never shies from the exciting or the evocative, and oftentimes embodies the energy of the LES of yesteryear.

Images courtesy of respective venues