I take myself on gallery tours every other Friday. It’s a great way to make sure I (and Mason Lane) am up to date on all of the art and happenings going on in NYC. The thing is, it can be INCREDIBLY daunting at first so I figured I’d share my own approach. Below is my step-by-step process for planning your very own gallery tour.
STEP 1: Pick A Neighborhood
There are so many galleries, museums, and pop-ups in the city and it’s overwhelming. It’s best to pick a neighborhood and focus your tour there. Chelsea, the Lower East Side, and Tribeca (yes, Tribeca) are good starting points because there are many many galleries in each of those neighborhoods to choose from. BUT the Upper East Side, Central Park South, and Midtown also have their fair share. Basically, pick an area you’d like to spend 1-2 hours in and go from there.
STEP 2: Pick Three Galleries
I think it's best to have three galleries on your tour roster, but know that wandering and going to more is A-OK and encouraged. Note that more than 6 is exhausting and you just don’t retain information. My personal strategy is to find two galleries/shows that I MUST see. Then, I look around for a gallery or two that I would like to see if I have time. Typically I pick at least one gallery I haven't been to before. Also, ARTCARDS is my go-to source when choosing where I go. It’s a weekly, no-nonsense list of all gallery openings and shows happening all over NYC and it’s AMAZING.
STEP 3: Wear Sneakers. Really. And Whatever Else You Want.
Relatively self-explanatory, but you’ll be walking a ton and want to be comfy. And no, the gallerist is not going to judge your footwear even if they seem like they are. Everything in the art world goes - you should see the diverse wardrobes sported around at openings - and there’s definitely no need to dress up.
STEP 4: Protocols
On the topic of protocol, and to answer some FAQs know that 1) galleries are FREE of charge, 2) you can take photos at all of them, and 3) you generally do not need an appointment. Gallery hours are a little different from typical retail though, so check their hours in advance. Chelsea galleries are typically open Tuesday through Saturday 10am - 6pm, and Lower East Side ones are commonly Wednesday - Sunday 11am - 6pm. A small minority are appointment only, and the website will will make that clear.
Finally, if something catches your eye when you’re walking around Chelsea/LES/Tribeca/UpperEastSide/Etc, OBVIOUSLY go in and look! The best part of a self-guided gallery tour is the spontaneity and freedom that comes from exploring and discovering. AND making a day of it — get a coffee or cocktail before, during, after, or try a new restaurant in one of the gallery districts. It’s a great Summer Friday date to do solo or with a friend.