A Guide to Brooklyn's Indie Art Scene

Where to See and Buy Art in Brooklyn

Outside a Gowanus Art Studio
Alison Lowenstein

Recently I was invited to a fancy Manhattan art auction, where I was handed a paddle. I didn't have the disposable income required for acquiring art, but I was curious to see what happened at these auctions. After leaving empty handed, it occurred to me that I live in a borough teeming with emerging painters and artists, and if I had a semi-realistic budget, I might be able to purchase a small piece of original art.  With my one hundred dollar budget, I traveled around Brooklyn in search of a masterpiece.

I'll admit that finding art in this price range is still really tricky and a few shop/galleries pointed me toward a rack of postcards. Although I still haven't settled on my affordable art purchase, I have researched all of the art openings, galleries, and annual open studio events in Brooklyn. If you have a slightly bigger budget or just love to peruse new art exhibits and openings like me (some provide free wine), here's your guide to Brooklyn's Indie Art Scene. Who knows, maybe one of these artist's works will one day be on the wall at a posh Manhattan auction house or museum.



In the past few years, sadly many Brooklyn galleries have closed, and a Williamsburg favorite, Pierogi, moved to the Lower East Side. I've included a mix of staple galleries in Brooklyn and a few casual galleries/ shops that sell art and other items. 

Since 2000, Figureworks has been an integral part of Williamsburg's artistic community. The gallery focuses on "contemporary and 20th-century fine art that explores the human form." Open on Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-6pm and by appointment, their newest exhibit, Making Music, opens on Friday, September 9th with a reception from 6-9pm. The exhibit runs until October 30th. If you've ever wanted to pursue art, they offer a weekly life drawing session on Saturdays from 10am-1pm. The three-hour session is nine dollars.

This 25,000 square foot waterfront Red Hook Gallery founded by Brooklyn artist Dustin Yellen, "seeks to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, foster community, and provide a space where alternative modes of thought are supported and activated in tangible ways."  On September 9th, The Present Is the Form of All Life The Time Capsules of Ant Farm and LST, opens. Come see the exhibit on September 11th, when the gallery hosts their monthly music and open gallery series, Second Sundays, which is a casual and fun way to see their art and listen to music, and the ideal way to end the weekend.

This is a definite must visit as you gallery hop around Brooklyn. 

A staple in the DUMBO art world, the gallery houses work of emerging and under-recognized artists. In addition, Smack Mellon's Artist Studio Program offers artists studio space. The artists that are chosen are apart of two annual Open Studio Smack Mellon events. From September 24th through October 30th, the gallery will host two exhibits, from artists Ghost of a Dream (a collaboration of Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was) and Bobby Neel Adams. There is an opening reception on September 24th from 5-8pm.

Truthfully just walking through the door of this shop/gallery on the East Williamsburg/Bushwick border, instantly transformed me into a cool indie artists fan. But seriously, The Cotton Candy Machine has an eclectic collection of prints. Peruse their website before visiting to get a sense of their collection. The shop carries work from local and international artists. The posters are fairly reasonable and you can score a cool one for around thirty dollars. In addition to art, they sell books, buttons, and funky items that would make great holiday and birthday gifts.

It's worth a visit. Afterward, take a gander at the street art on the warehouse walls through Bushwick or stop in at these spots, which are all within a short walk from The Cotton Candy Machine. 

Head to Downtown Brooklyn to check out this Boerum Hill mom and pop shop/gallery, which contains art and toys. In fact, many of the prints and paintings on the walls seemed perfectly suited for a child's room. There is a very playful feel to this shop and the whimsical art would lighten anyone's home. Their collection is varied and extremely reasonable, making it the ideal place to pick up a housewarming gift or to add a splash of fun arty decor to your home. Grumpy Bert also sells books and zines.

If you're a writer instead of a painter, Grumpy Bert hosts Get Lit writing workshops at their store. 


On the weekend of October 15th and 16th, the Gowanus section of Brooklyn will open up various art studios for you to tour. Check out their website for a printable map of the open studios and information on other art-related events at this weekend-long celebration of the arts in the Gowanus.

Of course, you can visit Bushwick anytime of the year to see the open-air museum of street art, but if you want to see the art that is being created behind closed doors, head to their annual open studio event. This year it takes place on October 1-2nd. However, the fun begins on September 30, 2016, with the opening night of Seeking Space: Making The Future.

On Sunday, November 13th 1-6pm, check out the open studios on Red Hook. The annual event lets you explore the studios around Van Brunt Street and see what the local artists are creating.

Greenpoint Open Studios takes place in the Spring,  but you can still check out their galleries. Also, The Greenpoint Gallery, which was founded by artist and musician Shawn James, hosts Friday shows from September through June. 

Industry City Open Studios 

Industry City on the waterfront in Sunset Park has seen incredible growth in the past decade. It's now home to a food court, a distillery, and is also the winter home for both the Brooklyn Flea and the Smorgasburg. However long before the tourists started to flock to this industrial space in the heart of Brooklyn, it was home to many artists. Visit the open studios of Industry City every spring. Check out their website for the dates. 


For the skinny on all of the art openings around Brooklyn, check out Wagmag or ArtinBrooklyn, which has a calendar of all the art events happening in Brooklyn. Below are regularly scheduled events from weekly art walks to annual art shows. 

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition hosts many art shows throughout the year. On the Sunday of the last day of each show, they auction off the work from the event. At these auctions, there is a possibility to score a piece of art for as little as forty bucks. Even if art buying isn't on your agenda, a visit to their gallery in Red Hook is a worth a visit. Located on the waterfront, the gallery exhibits local artists. The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition was founded in 1978 and was vital in creating the artistic community in Red Hook.

However, if you're in the market for art, you must attend  The Really, Really Affordable Art Show on September 24th- October 16th, which runs weekends from 1-6pm. I will definitely be there hoping to finally purchase something under a hundred bucks. 

Due to extreme popularity and overcrowding the annual DUMBO open studios tour, which was called the DUMBO Arts Festival was canceled, but you still have a chance to be apart of the DUMBO art scene. On the first Thursday of the month from 6pm-9pm, you can explore DUMBO's galleries, as galleries will stay open for you to have an evening of artistic discoveries. There are also musical performances under the archway under the Manhattan Bridge.

There is no better way to find an emerging artist that to visit an art show at one of America's best art colleges. Pratt Art Show has work from the students at Pratt. Enjoy or bid on art by students at Pratt. This is a great way to see what new works are being created by our next generation of artists. 

On September 17th, the Greenpoint Arts Festival hosts a block party. The event located at the Greenpoint library "is a neighborhood street festival consisting of various cultural, educational, and recreational events with the goal of promoting Polish and local artists, highlighting the Polish identity of Greenpoint, and integrating its old and new inhabitants."

The Bushwick Arts Festival, which started this year. The second annual Bushwick Arts Festival will take place the third weekend of June in 2017. Check their website for updates on this sure to be popular annual arts event.  

BRIC has free art exhibits throughout the year. BRIC's "BRIC's contemporary art program captures a rich cross-section of ideas, voices and artistic media that reflect Brooklyn's diverse community of artists." Upcoming exhibits include BRIC Biennial: Volume II, Bed Stuy/Crown Heights Edition which will run from November 10th to January 15th, 2017 at the Gallery at BRIC House (647 Fulton Street).