The Art Of The Lower East Side

Once the gritty and bohemian Mecca of New York, the Lower East Side has morphed into a popular destination in recent years, with world-class restaurants and luxury apartments. Amidst this modern transformation, the neighborhood still boasts remnants of its artistic past with public art, as well as a new crop of art galleries to peruse while visiting a hot café or spending the day at the New Museum.

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Tom Otterness’ “Large Coqui”

You may have seen Tom Otterness’ epic installation “Life Underground” in the 8 th Avenue MTA Station (those little bronze characters climbing and playing on the platforms). Otterness has gone much larger for the playground of PS 20, with a large bronze frog that children can play on. The Coqui tree frog was chosen as it is indigent to Puerto Rico, to reflect the community in this area of the Lower East Side, which was predominantly Puerto Rican in the 1980s and 90s. 166 Essex Street, between Houston & Stanton Streets.

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Beau Stanton’s Wheelhouse piece

Paulaner’s NYC outpost not only has a hearty German menu and extensive selection of beer, but it is also a massive art piece in itself. The bar commissioned Brooklyn artist Beau Stanton to transform their façade into a massive painting installation, which portrays the wheelhouse from the ill-fated ship the PS General Slocum. The ship infamously sank in 1904, bringing a large portion of New York City’s German population with it. 265 Bowery, between Houston & Stanton Streets.

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The Lodge Gallery

An early gallery on the now thriving Lower East Side scene, The Lodge Gallery has a consistent program that ranges between solo exhibitions of cutting edge artists, to innovative group shows that have a thematic curatorial direction (rather than just a bunch of artists showing together). If you’re in the know, head back through one of the gallery walls to Fig. 19, a clandestine chandelier and taxidermy-filled bar with champagne on tap. 131 Chrystie Street, between Delancey & Broome Streets;;

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Freeman’s Alley

Renowned for the famous Freeman’s restaurant which opened in 2004 and sits at the end of this charming alley, the little half-street has also attracted street artists over the past 20 years. Here, you can find a rotating example of wheatpastes, graffiti, tags, stickers and street art by the daring. The alley is also home to an outpost of Salon 94 Gallery, which has a fantastic program and a sister space on the Bowery. Freemans Alley, between Chrystie Street and the Bowery.

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Part brand promotion, part gallery space, Wallplay on the corner of Orchard and Delancey brings a physical gallery, art billboards, digital screens, and rooftop projections that enliven the corner with art by both day and night. 118 Orchard Street, at Delancey Street;

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Yuri Gerasimov’s Lenin Statue

The statue on the top of this building is not hailing a cab from the roof, but has actually hailed from Mother Russia. The giant Lenin was originally a state commissioned work, which was hidden after the Soviet Union’s demise and found in a backyard of a dacha outside of Moscow. Sitting atop a Houston Street high rise called “Red Square”, developers purchased the statue to poke fun at the name. They even created a postcard that said “Greetings From Red Square,” with Lenin’s arm raised proudly toward the downtown skyline. 250 East Houston Street, between Avenues A & B.

Words by Lori Zimmer