One of the many reasons Tufts students are lucky to have easy access to downtown Boston is the city’s impressive art scene. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art are all a relatively quick T-ride away. Less widely known is that we have a wide array of excellent local galleries at our fingertips. While visiting galleries is a great way to see works of art for free in an intimate setting, I personally had yet to venture into any of the galleries I’d noticed lining Newbury Street and other areas of Boston until this past weekend, when I went on a self-directed gallery tour of the city.
The best part of the Boston gallery scene is that checking out one or two galleries can be easily incorporated into a day spent downtown. For the most part, Boston’s galleries are located in two areas: the Back Bay (primarily on Newbury Street) and the South End (primarily on Harrison Avenue). If you’re shopping on Newbury or grabbing a bite to eat in the South End, adding a couple gallery stops to your agenda can be a great way to see unique art. Newbury Street galleries mostly carry works by established artists—you’ll find everything from Rembrandt to Warhol—while Harrison Avenue galleries offer contemporary art from artists who have ongoing careers.
I started my excursion on Newbury Street at the International Poster Gallery (205 Newbury St.). The title of this gallery says it all, as it’s filled with vintage advertisements from France, Italy, Sweden, Russia, and the Netherlands. Once inside, take a moment to click around their in-store online catalogue. The exhibition currently on display, “Global Persuasion: Mid-Century Modern Posters,” showcases brightly colored post-World War II posters that demonstrate the consumer and corporate trends of the 1950s poster boom. The Poster Gallery has a great collection of vintage magazine covers and clippings starting at $15, a much more affordable than most of the vintage posters—a great idea for holiday gifting or decorating a college bedroom.
Next up is the Pucker Gallery (171 Newbury St.). The Pucker Gallery houses five floors full of ceramics, paintings, drawings, photography, and sculptures, leading gallery associate Allison Wetzel to describe it as “a small museum.”
As you enter the gallery, you can see the main exhibition on the gallery’s first floor—currently the work of Samuel Bak, a Holocaust survivor who uses chess pieces and game board imagery in his paintings to symbolize the workings of world affairs. Gallery associates will also take you to see any of the art on the remaining four floors. Wetzel was very informative in describing both Bak’s work, as well as the photography, pottery, and cloth paintings she showed me on the upper floors.
Galerie d’Orsay (33 Newbury St.) is home to works by many famous artists from a range of time periods, including Chagall, Dalí, Manet, and Matisse. Notably, the gallery houses a trio of Rembrandt etchings and a lovely rare Mary Cassett drypoint, “Simone Resting Her Head on the back of a Chair.”
Newbury Fine Arts (29 Newbury St.) is next door to Galerie d’Orsay and is a unique presence on Newbury because it showcases the works of contemporary, mid-career artists rather than the well-known artists featured at other nearby galleries. I loved the Jeffrey Terreson one-man show currently on exhibit, and the upcoming Tim Merrett exhibition, opening November 4, looks excellent as well. Merrett is a local artist whose “Clearhistory” paintings closely examine facets of classic works of art and recreate them, incorporating his own elements such as vibrant pops of background color.
Also noteworthy on Newbury are Gallery Naga (a contemporary art gallery with a calming aesthetic located in the neo-Gothic Church of the Covenant at 67 Newbury St.), DTR Modern Galleries (a gallery franchise at 167 Newbury St. with an upcoming Salvador Dalí exhibition), and Martin Lawrence Galleries (another modern gallery on 77 Newbury St. with remarkable works by Miró and Picasso and a playful atmosphere, with the upbeat Fitz and the Tantrums playing in the background).
Leaving Newbury, Harrison Avenue in the South End is a treat to visit. 450 Harrison Ave. is a large building housing a multitude of galleries—Bromfield Gallery, Carroll and Sons, Chase Young Gallery, Gallery Benoit, Gallery Kayafas, Kingston Gallery, Samsøn, Soprafina Gallery, and Steven Zevitas Gallery—in addition to a number of specialty shops. Each is worth stopping into, as is the SoWa Artists Guild, also located in the building.
My favorite South End gallery was actually across the street at 460 Harrison Ave.. Gurari Collections’ owner Russ Gerard told me that he was aiming to bring a bit of New York City to Boston. The exhibition that is currently wrapping up at Gurari is a series of up-close photos of NYC subway walls by Brooklyn artist Christopher Fisher. Complementing the photographs were a variety of three-dimensional objects, from simple metal tables and chairs to show how the artwork looks proportionate to furniture, to Gerard’s self-titled “cabinet of curiosity,” housing a variety of scientific apparatuses.
Venture over soon to see Gurari Collections’ promising new exhibition, a series of bicycle paintings and works on paper by Brooklyn artist Taliah Lempert. With so many undiscovered galleries to explore, the art world in Boston holds endless opportunities.