My second guide to alternative New York for returning visitors is a compilation of the best bits of art we found.
In my previous trips to the Big Apple I’ve been to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’d love to go to the big galleries, like the Guggenheim or the Whitney, but honestly the weather was so warm on our trip that I wanted to take advantage of it, and being inside didn’t appeal to me.
Did you know New York was the birthplace of modern graffiti? When the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker died at the age of 34 in 1955, the words “Bird Lives!” appeared on numerous New York’s walls. And what was once considered a nuisance is now considered art – when commissioned (or looks pretty) of course – and the New York City real estate market is capitalising on it.
So for visitors that enjoy it, street art is abundant in New York City, and it’s free to see!
Camille Walala – Industry City
I am a very big fan of Walala’s work – it’s so joyful, colourful and playful. How happy would you be if you lived in a house painted like this (my dream!)?
Bonus: it’s on the end of an amazing independent food court. Pop in for some organic ice cream!
📍 Industry City, 2nd Avenue / 36th Street
ESPO’s Art World
I wasn’t entirely aware of Steve ‘ESPO’ Powers before I visited New York and Jenna introduced me to his work (see my Coney Island guide). I realised, though, that I had seen his work in the past at Dismaland. He’s got an incredible CV, with his work being commissioned and exhibited across the world.Jenna had put ESPO’s artworld on our list of places to visit. It’s a studio-cum-gallery selling prints, totes and other paraphernalia. Sadly the man himself wasn’t in attendance but his staff were super sweet, including the Yorkshire Terrier looking a bit sad staring out of the door.
📍 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Coney Art Walls
I covered these in my Returning Visitors / Altnernative Guide to New York #1. More than 30 street art walls by popular artists. Great fun for insta-posing.
As well as the art walls, it’s also worth having a mooch around the theme parks for signwriting by the ‘Dreamland Artists Club’ – a group of artists led by ESPO who repainted signs , murals and backdrops for businesses there.
James and Karla’s Mom and Pops of the L.E.S
James and Karla Murray are a husband and wife photography duo known for documenting the traditional storefronts of New York, particularly whilst they are being forced to closed down due to rising overheads and gentrification.
“Mom & Pops of the L.E.S.” is an art installation inside Seward Park in the Lower East Side. The installation exhibits near life-sized photographs of neighborhood stores that are no longer in business.
Bonus! On Saturday’s you can browse the Hester Street Fair next door, an independent market selling art, jewellery and crafts, with food available and DJs playing.
📍 Canal St and, Essex St, New York, NY 10002
Jason Naylor murals
I love Jason Naylor’s joyful style: feel good vibes, uplifting quotes and the colours of electric positivity. He does need to get better at detailing where is murals can be found though! Some of these were hard to find!
Here’s a photo of me laughing at nothing like bloggers do, but I can.📍 Bowery, on the corner of Hester St, Lowe East Side
Chase your dream (collaboration with Hektad)
📍 Delancey Street, on the corner of Suffolk Street (the side of Burger King).
First Street Green Cultural Park
The First Street Green Cultural park is a small public park with free standing mural walls painted by numerous up and coming artists.
I’ll be honest for the sake of a visitor trying to find it: don’t look for a park. It’s more of a bit of wasteland and a back street. We approached at the back-street side and the murals here were more impressive, both in size and in general quality. There was an artist there at the time creating a new one.
The garden, however, seemed a little creepy. It’s right on a busy street but it’s a long narrow area of land with a fair bit of foliage and the odd bench, there wasn’t a huge amount of people looking around and it smelt a bit like urine and there was a lot of little flies. I didn’t spend too long there as I am a delicious buffet to biting insects.
I chose love – HektadoRIP Jef Campion AKA Army of One – Fumeroism
What a sad backstory to this. Jef Campion, was a city firefighter and 9/11 emergency responder known for his anti-war art displays and volunteer work with children’s charities. He spent about 40 consecutive days at Ground Zero after the 11 September attack, which is said to have taken its toll on his mental health. He was found hanged in his home in 2014.
📍 33 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003
More urban art favourites of the Lower East Side
Here’s a toast – Timothy Goodman
Timothy Goodman’s aesthetic is bold black with white or accents of colour. His mural on behalf of Elysian Brewing is no different! Great quote.
📍 Delancey, cornering with Ludlow
Anthony Bourdain – Bradley Theodore
A homage to the late Anthony Bourdain, Theodore’s work usually depicts well known personalities in a ghoulish guise. But for Bourdain, he blooms with life. The caption reads “In a city full of villains we all need a hero”.📍 Delancey Street, between Essex and Ludlow
Art is my healing – Sara Erenthal📍 Allen Street and Delancey
If there’s any specific murals you want to see, I totally recommend marking them on your map to stop by if you’re in the area. We went out of our way to see Camille Walala’s mural and to visit Espo’s Art World.
But in the Lower East Side it’s more common than a Starbucks on every corner. Just head to Bowery and you’ll joyful or meaningful art on most buildings.
Alternative New York – Instagrammable Urban Art
🗺️ Worth marking favourites on a map in advance
🎨 Lower East Side has abundant wall art to browse
🌵 First Street Cultural Garden features up and coming artists but needs some tlc
💸Free to view art that can be enjoyed between other sightseeing and activities
My other alternative guides to New York City: