Chelsea Art Galleries

Yesterday I made my first trip to New York City in 2019. It is getting hard to find new things to do in New York City since I go there so often. But on this trip I decided to concentrate on the art galleries in Chelsea. Most of these art galleries are concentrated between West 24th Street and West 22nd Street to the west of the High Line. I must have visited between fifteen or twenty art galleries but I was not keeping track so it will be hard to document exactly which galleries I visited.

The bus left us off outside the Times Square Church just like they used to do. Maybe they will go back to using that as the drop off and pick up spot. I quickly found a subway entrance for the C and E lines 50 Street Station but this was in the direction for uptown, not downtown like I wanted. When I tried to use my MetroCard it read Insufficient Fare but before I could refill it somebody called me over and opened the gate for me. I should not have done that but I was thinking there may have been a malfunction or something. Although I was on the wrong platform for going downtown, I decided to go uptown and visit the Sony Plaza Public Arcade which has public restrooms. Unfortunately I found the Sony Plaza Public Arcade was closed because that building is being remodeled. I did take a photo of Paley Park as I walked past it on East 53rd Street. Actually it was not Paley Park, but some waterfalls on the side of the building that houses Burger Heaven. Anyways, I found a Fifth Avenue – 53rd Street Station entrance and took an E train downtown to the 23rd Street Station like I originally intended.

Reconstructing exactly which art galleries I visited is going to be difficult but I do have my photos as a rough record of where I went. For example, my first photo is of the Empire Diner which had a mural painted on the wall of the building behind it featuring the artists Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat. This seemed very appropriate for the Chelsea Art District.  I remember that I tried to visit the Fremin Gallery but it was closed for a private event. I must have walked down to West 21st Street because my next photos are of the Gagosian Gallery entrance, Kravets Wehby Gallery, and Paula Cooper Gallery. The Gagosian Gallery was closed for installation. One of the art galleries I can confirm that I entered was Miles McEnery Gallery on West 21st Street which had the work of John Sonsini as its current exhibition.

Empire Diner Mural

Empire Diner Mural

I must have walked to West 22nd Street after that because I took a photo of the JoAnne Artman Gallery and the Danese/Corey Gallery at  511 West 22nd Street. Confusingly Miles McEnery Gallery is also on West 22nd Street. Several galleries are located at 535 West 22nd Street including DC Moore Gallery but I did not try to enter since there didn’t seem to be any lights on. But I’m pretty sure I went up the black stairs to visit this second location of the  Miles McEnery Gallery. According to their web site I saw the work of Tomory Dodge. I know I entered the JoAnne Artman Gallery because I have their business card. I only collected two business cards. I definitely visited the Yancey Richardson gallery where I saw some huge photographs by Victoria Sambunaris. These high definition photos were taken in Utah according to the web site. I thought they were photos of some desolate region in the Middle East. I especially like the photos of railroad tanker cars in Utah. That photo had nice composition. I did not try to take any photos of the artwork in any of the galleries because I did not know if that would be allowed. I did see a few people take photos with their smartphones. Also on West 22nd Street is the Sikkema Jenkins & Co art gallery which had their door open. That was the gallery where I saw crude paintings by artist Louis Fratino. I found these paintings slightly distasteful since they were gay erotica featuring the male body, but I dutifully examined each one. Personally I find greater beauty in the female nude and this can be understood once you realize that beauty actually lies in what represents a wonderful possibility for us. The Dia Art Foundation also seems to have a gallery on this street but it did not appear to be open.

Miles McEnery Gallery

Miles McEnery Gallery

The High Line appears to have inspired a building boom in Chelsea. I saw various condominiums being built and many of them seemed to be in a competition for the most modern and sleek building design. So I took a few photos of the more striking examples. In particular, there was black building with rounded corners behind the Guardian Angel Church. I didn’t do too much research on the neighborhood but I did see the Highline Hotel and the Star On 18 Diner on my way to West 19th Street where I located and photographed The Kitchen, an Off-Broadway theater that has been on my list of places to photograph for quite some time. I never got around to it because I’ve rarely been in the vicinity. Two very large condominiums with a striking design are being built on this block so I had to walk around some construction. Since I was in the area, I crossed 11th Avenue to the Chelsea Piers and took many photos of the IAC Building and the 100 Eleventh Avenue residential tower. I got some really great photos of these two buildings because the sun was shining bright. I will replace the photos in my notes with these better photos.

IAC Building

IAC Building

At this point, I finally decided to visit a book store in the neighborhood, 192 Books on 10th Avenue. I found their small theater section and bought the book Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine by Simon Critchley and Jamison Webster because Hamlet is my favorite play. I can tell by my receipt that I bought this at 12:57 p.m. 192 Books is a fairly small book store with just one large room. You have to wonder how small stores stay open in New York City where the rent is so high. They did have an extensive selection of art books so they must get most of their traffic from the Chelsea art gallery crowd.

Next I visited three art galleries on 10th Avenue; Taglialatella Galleries, Chase Contemporary, and Jim Kempner Fine Art. I took a business card for Taglialatella Galleries and postcards for Chase Contemporary and Jim Kempner Fine Art. Chase Contemporary had some really cool art like a giant matchbox car model and portraits by Ole Aakjær of models with yellow noses to make them look like clowns, gorgeous clowns. Jim Kempner Fine Art is an impressive gallery with large windows just under the High Line on West 23rd Street. They were showing map design art by Paula Scher.

After that I went to West 24th Street which is the street with the most art galleries. I visited the following art galleries for sure based on my photos and recollection; Marianne Boesky Gallery, Pace Gallery, Gagosian, Bryce Wolkowitz, Metro Pictures Gallery, Lyons Wier Gallery, C24 Gallery, and Lehmann Maupin. At the Pace Gallery 537 West 24th Street I saw the most impressive artwork I saw that day, landscapes by Raqib Shaw. These landscapes where highly detailed and very exotic. They were landscapes of fantasy realms populated by mystics and people with bird heads. I had to spend several minutes with each painting just to take in all the detail. The Marianne Boesky Gallery was showing large sculptures of Frank Stella and I saw a tour group being shown around. I think it was a tour being run by an art institution since Frank Stella is a major artist.

Marianne Boesky Gallery

Marianne Boesky Gallery

At around 2:00 p.m. I began to walk east along West 23rd Street in order to make it to the Irish Repertory Theatre to see the play The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey. I didn’t want to be late because this was the highlight of my trip. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the Chelsea art galleries to 7th Avenue. Along the way I passed the famous Chelsea Hotel. This place still has a little scaffolding on its facade but less than I’ve ever seen so I took several photos. It does look like they have cleaned and repainted the facade pretty well.  Once I was near the theater I took photos of Champignon Restaurant and Zagara Wine Bar since I might want to eat dinner in this neighborhood after a show. I’ve been going to the Irish Repertory Theatre often enough to make this a concern.

Irish Repertory Theatre

Irish Repertory Theatre

The Irish Repertory Theatre has become my favorite theater in New York City. This was the third time I’ve seen a show there. The reason for this is their conservative approach to the fine arts. Every other theater in New York City seems to be too intent on showing how progressive they are with their casting and choice of material. Now, it is not that I seek a politically conservative theater, but I do want to see classic European dramas with sensible casting decisions. I feel I can trust the Irish Repertory Theatre to put sound artistic concerns over the prissy moral concerns of the political activists. Theater is the one art form which I prefer in its conservative form because drama works best when it observes all the rules. I would like to see some avant-garde theater but it has to be mystifying and strange, not merely politically radical. I suppose the Irish Repertory Theatre can get away with being so conservative because it is a theater devoted to an ethnic group. I don’t really get how the Irish are a downtrodden ethnic group. I think of the Irish as white Europeans just like the English, the French, or the Germans.

I had to use the restroom at the Irish Repertory Theatre because none of the art galleries had public restrooms. They only have two unisex restrooms, each just one room with only one toilet, so there is always quite a line before a show. Fortunately I only had to wait on two people before me. I had a seat in the balcony since that was the only seat left for this particular show.

Anyway, The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey is a fine old play. I read it a long time ago in a collection of Sean O’Casey plays but I really remembered nothing about it. Just past the balcony was a small room which they made into a museum on Sean O’Casey. The exhibit consisted mostly of paper items like old playbills, books, and newspaper clippings. But they also had some large poster boards made up to show the history of Sean O’Casey and his work in the theater. There were two display dummies in costume. Overall it was an impressive little museum devoted to a playwright.

The production was very high quality with elaborate sets and period costumes. Most of the actors spoke with Irish accents. There were several set changes during the show and they even used a turntable to revolve the set from a tenement room to a bar. I thought that was quite impressive for such a small theater with a small stage. Unfortunately I did doze off briefly during the show because I have to get up too early for these bus trips to New York City. Then when I get into a quiet, darkened theater I just want to close my eyes for a minute. Fortunately  I cannot sleep sitting up but I do nod off briefly.

When the play was over I went to the Champignon Restaurant because I was starving. I ordered the Steak and Frites. I ordered my steak well done but it was still a little stringy and a bit raw. Unfortunately the meat clogged my esophagus so I had to rush to the bathroom to vomit as I was gagging. This is a rare medical problem for me, but I have to be careful when eating very moist dough or stringy meat because it may clog my esophagus. This meal only cost me around $33.00. I only spent $17.37 for the book I bought so this was the cheapest trip I’ve ever made to New York City. I hardly spent any money while I was there.

Champignon Restaurant

Champignon Restaurant

Before leaving the Chelsea neighborhood I walked down to West 19th Street to take a photo of the New York Live Arts performance space. I thought I had taken a photo of this place on a previous trip but I guess I always forgot. This performance space appears to be more devoted to dance than theater. I even saw a ballerina in the window.

When I finally arrived back on 5oth Street, taking an E train from the 23rd Street Station to get back uptown, I walked down to West 47th Street  to take a photo of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, probably the only theater in Hell’s Kitchen which I’ve overlooked. Then I located the Broadhurst Theatre. The Broadhurst Theatre was advertising Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune which I will see on my next trip to New York City. I already have my ticket. The Broadhurst Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theater so this will be a thrilling experience for me. The play stars the movie star Michael Shannon who I’ve already seen on Broadway in Long Days Journey Into Night. It is always a thrill to see a movie star in the flesh on stage, right in front of you. However, I don’t know what else I will do in New York City on that trip. I’m kind of all out of ideas.

I walked to the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue hoping to buy another book before going home but by the time I got there I was worrying about missing the bus so I didn’t take the time to make a purchase. I might have been able to squeeze this in but there would have been no time to browse. Fortunately I made it back to the Times Square Church with plenty of time to spare and managed to take a few photos along the way.

I have a few notes about the bus trip itself. I bought a new travel bag which is larger than the shoulder bag I’ve been using and this worked out well considering how many devices I take on a trip. I also managed to watch movies on my smartphone using a Leizhan USB OTG Flash Drive. I was able to watch Ironman and Ironman 2 on my smartphone which really helped to ease my boredom. Before this I was listening to music for four hours on end and that gets a little tedious. We stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center at Delaware Water Gap for the comfort stop. I bought a chocolate bar from the vending machine but it turned out to be partially melted. That really pissed me off. I had to put it in the freezer when I got home to make it solid enough to eat. So note to self, do not buy chocolate from vending machines.

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