An art history tour of the Bowery

The Bunker at 222 Bowery

The Bunker at 222 Bowery (Credit: Shingo Urier)

It may get less attention than SoHo and Chelsea, but the Bowery is an important art neighborhood.

In the middle of the last century, the area around the Bowery was the rough-and-tumble home to artists such as Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. It's the same old story: Cheap rents and large spaces made good studios for the struggling artists of the time.

The artistic pedigree of the neighborhood, however, isn't rooted solely in the past. During the past decade, the area has seen a slew of new galleries open.

Small, alternative spaces like the Canada gallery started popping up in the early 2000s. And recently, more established galleries have made their homes in the area.

We asked Heather Corcoran, editor of "Art + NYC: A Complete Guide to New York City Art and Artists," to put together a quick art-history tour of the neighborhood.

The New Museum
235 Bowery

Corcoran credits the 2007 opening of the New Museum with attracting more established galleries to the neighborhood. The institution itself has existed in various forms since 1977, and after years without a permanent home, it settled into its current space. The SANAA-designed building has brought new life to what was once an empty lot.

Art Since the Summer of '69
195 Chrystie St., #303
Corcoran describes this gallery as a "teeny, tiny alternative space run by art-world workers on their days off."

Down closer to Chinatown, she said it's not uncommon to find these quirky little spaces run by "people who have day jobs and just really love art."

55 Chrystie St.
Opened in 2002, Canada was one of the first gallery spaces to "rediscover" the neighborhood.

"Being a consistent venue for exciting art downtown is really what sets them apart," Corcoran noted.

Sperone Westwater
257 Bowery
The international gallery opened this enormous Norman Foster-designed eight-story building in 2010. Its opening is part of the definite trend of "established big-money people coming to the area," Corcoran said.

Lehmann Maupin
201 Chrystie St.
Lehmann Maupin was the first major Chelsea gallery to open a satellite on the Lower East Side.

"[T]hey've done something really interesting with the space, in that it shows a little bit of the building's history rather than it just being a blank white slate," Corcoran said.

The Bunker
222 Bowery
Located across the street from the New Museum, the Bunker (pictured above) is "one of the really famous buildings on the Bowery when it comes to art," Corcoran said. "It was a converted YMCA, and ... not only were [rooms] cheap, but they offered a little more space for artists to work."

Past residents include William Burroughs, Mark Rothko, Lynda Benglis and Byron Ginson.

Keith Haring Studio
325 Broome St.
"Haring set up the 'Rat Studio' in the basement of this building in the early 1980s, where he collaborated with local graffiti artists," Cor-coran said.

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