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The Ludlow Hotel
If you're planning to explore the exploding network of 100+ young galleries in the Lower East Side (as you should), embrace your newcomer status inside a fellow new addition to the neighborhood: The Ludlow Hotel. With a cool courtyard in the back and a cozy lobby bar, equipped with a fireplace, this swanky boutique hotel has been a go-to downtown hangout ever since its doors first opened in June 2014. Here you can quietly map your visit to the many exhibitions around the block…and chances are you'll (over)hear the best tips about the not-to-be-missed shows from the artists and art dealers who often meet here for drinks.
Start with the blue-chip galleries who have migrated to the ‘hood with their superstar artists (Sperone Westwater and Lehmann Maupin, for instance). Then venture out to discover others: James Fuentes, Canada, Jack Hanley, Salon 94, and more.
The Ludlow Hotel, 180 Ludlow Street (between Stanton and East Houston streets); 212-432-1818.
Pioneer Works opened three years ago, as the vision of artist Dustin Yellin. Set in a 25,000-square-foot, nearly 150-year-old warehouse, it’s a huge exhibition space with artists coming from all around the world to its residence studios. Scientists meet painters, writers mingle with astrophysicists, and celebrities have been known to hang out among the two floors of cavernous galleries.
Second Sundays is the best time to visit with its program of onsite performances and live music in the garden. Of course, if you’re not sold on the cultural experience alone, you may also fall in love with the commute: the best way to get there is to hop on an Ikea ferry at Pier 11 in Financial District, which will drop you off right in Red Hook.
Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street (between Conover and Van Brunt streets), Brooklyn; 718-596-3001.
Wednesday through Sunday, 12 to 6 p.m.
The Studio Cafe, Untitled at the Whitney
A NYC must-see — especially this fall — the Whitney Museum has found great momentum after its historic move last May to a new downtown home. The glass-enclosed building displays eight floors of impressive American contemporary art masterpieces. From de Kooning's Woman work to the Gothic leather masks by Nancy Grossman, each visit is an unpredictable journey.
If you haven't struck a conversation with a stranger in front of the lovely Calder's circus, head to the cafe on the eighth floor. It's the perfect setting to enjoy sweeping views of the Meatpacking District and the Hudson River (and one of The Studio Cafe’s infamous triple chocolate chip cookies).
The Studio Cafe, Untitled at the Whitney, Whitney Museum, 99 Gansevoort Street (between Washington Street and 10th Avenue); 212-570-3670.
New Museum Store
A popular hangout for the creative kids of downtown, the New Museum is as loved for its edgy exhibits as its gem of a store. A minefield of rare artists books, posters, and luxurious catalogs, it is also an inspired source for crafty, 3-D printed objects, T-shirts that won’t make you look like an overzealous tourist, quirky home goods, and limited-edition pieces, such as skateboard decks adorned with artists’ works. The whole store isn't much more than a tiny nook, but it's packed with so much amusing stuff that you could easily spend an hour perusing about and debating on spending your entire souvenir budget here.
New Museum, 235 Bowery (between Stanton and Rivington streets); 212-219-1222.
Rock N' Shop
Brooklyn is made up of a mosaic of neighborhoods where many promising artists live and work. Any café near Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg could be a good start to rub elbows with the future Jeff Koons. But instead, head a few stations further on the L train to Bushwick. The post-industrial warehouses have been widely converted into studios and exhibition spaces.
On Sundays, a good spot to meet the locals is the brand-new Rock N' Shop flea market. With live music performances, organic food, unique clothing, costume jewelry, and tattoo artists (who are ready to make your love of the Big Apple permanent), the event is proof that New York is still the ultimate crossroad of the art worlds.
Rock N' Shop at The Paper Box, 17 Meadow Street (near Waterbury Street), Brooklyn.
Sundays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.