Manhattan claims an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the arts. Gallery-goers intent on putting their finger on the pulse of the city's thriving arts scene will need to broaden their horizons beyond the galleries clustered in NYC's art world epicenter at Chelsea, and dive into the gallery world that extends deep into the quieter realm of the Upper East Side, where the rich depository of artwork isn't limited just to the collections contained within its legendary "Museum Mile" (including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim). Here, we've rounded up five of the very best private art galleries on Manhattan's Upper East Side, showcasing works from established masters and emerging artists alike. Best of all, entrance to these galleries' shows, which are regularly museum-quality, is open to the public and absolutely free.
980 Madison Ave. btwn 76th & 77th Sts.; 212-744-2313; www.gagosian.com
Hours: Tue–Sat, 10am–6pm
This 35-year-old gallery chain, brainchild of renowned art dealer Larry Gagosian, first debuted in Los Angeles, and has since sprawled out worldwide with more than a dozen branches spanning London, Paris, Hong Kong, and beyond. Visitors to the Upper East Side can visit a duo of Gagosian Gallery outposts (plus, there's another branch downtown in Chelsea): the original, at 980 Madison Avenue, is known for staging major exhibitions of modern and contemporary art; its latest addition, set in a storefront space on Park Avenue at 75th Street, debuted in April 2014 (212-796-1228; open Tue–Sun, 10am–6pm). Also pop by the Gagosian Shop (976 Madison Ave. btwn 76th & 77th Sts.; 212-796-1224; open Mon–Sat, 10am–7pm), brimming with artists' books, limited edition artist-designed products, and more.
What's on Now: At its 980 Madison Avenue gallery, take in "Portraits of America: Diane Arbus/Cady Noland," showcasing photography from Diana Arbus and Cady Noland with a focus on the darker undertones of American culture (runs through May 23, 2014).
45 E. 78th St. btwn Madison & Park Aves.; 212-861-0020; www.mnuchingallery.com
Hours: Tue–Sat, 10am–5:30pm
Octogenarian Robert Mnuchin, former co-owner of prominent (and now-defunct) gallery L&M Arts (which he ran with his then-partner Dominique Lévy), has since moved on to operate the Mnuchin Gallery. Set in the same elegant townhouse where L&M Arts once was located, gallery-goers can expect the same blue-chip art shows, specializing in post-World War II American art.
What's on Now: Catch "Casting Modernity: Bronze in the XXth Century," which presents more than 30 bronze sculptures by leading 20th-century artists, including Calder, Koons, and more (runs April 24–June 7, 2014).
18 E. 79th St. btwn Madison & Fifth Aves.; 212-734-6300; www.acquavellagalleries.com
Hours: Mon–Fri, 10am–5pm
Founded in the 1920s by Nicholas Acquavella, this family-run gallery is still overseen by his descendants in a French neoclassical townhouse on the Upper East Side. Expect museum-worthy shows (i.e. Picasso, Matisse, Miró) specialized in 19th- and 20th-century art movements like Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art. The gallery additionally serves as the exclusive international agent for James Rosenquist, Damian Loeb, and Enoc Perez, and also represents Wayne Thiebaud.
What's on Now: View "Jean-Michel Basquiat Drawing: Work from the Schorr Family Collection," which highlights 22 work on paper and two paintings sourced from the private collection of Herbert and Lenore Schorr (runs May 1–June 13, 2014).
Leo Castelli Gallery
18 E. 77th St. btwn Madison & Fifth Aves.; 212-249-4470; www.castelligallery.com
Hours: Tue–Sat, 10am–6pm
Open since the 1950s, this premier gallery maintains a specialty in post-war American art. It has represented major art-world players for Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual Art, hosting a slate of big-name artists like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, among others.
What's on Now: "Walls: Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein" showcases side-by-side works by these two eminent artists, which the Castelli Gallery has historically represented (runs April 25–June 27, 2014).
Friedman & Vallois
27 E. 67th St. btwn Park & Madison Aves.; 212-517-3820; www.vallois.com
Hours: Tue–Fri, 10am–6pm; Sat, 10am–5pm
An outpost of this Parisian-based, Art Deco-specialized gallery, this Upper East Side space, opened since 1999, proposes a rotating roster of shows dedicated to contemporary artists.
What's on Now: "Boris Zaborov" presents the work of one of Russia's most famous modern-day artists, whose work is included in important worldwide collections like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Selections from the Russo-French artist Zaborov's oeuvre is represented through paintings, sculptures, and works on paper (runs through June 14, 2014).