The 20 Best Spots to See Street Art in New York City
The 20 Best Spots to See Street Art in New York City
NEW YORK — In a city ruled by real estate, the overlooked, undervalued, and condemned corners of the built environment lying just beyond the municipal government's vision often provide the most fertile grounds for surreptitious, short-lived, and sumptuous installations by street artists. Though the richest hot spots for such art are in a constant state of flux, being prey to the whims of developers, city planners, property-owners, weather, and even devoted fans looking to peel away a freshly wheat-pasted work, certain spaces merit repeat visits. To make this shifting territory more easily navigable, ARTINFO parsed the boroughs — well, three of them anyway — to bring you the 20 best street art spots in New York City.
5Pointz in Long Island City, Jackson Avenue at Davis Street
New York's high temple to graffiti and street art, which looms across the street from MoMA PS1, stands to be demolished on its 20th anniversary to make way for luxury housing (what else?). Since taking over as the site's curator and director in 2002, street artist Meres One has overseen the richest mural program in the city, with a near constant turnover that attracts artists from all over the boroughs, the country, and the world.
190 Bowery on the Lower East Side, Bowery and Spring Street
190 Bowery might be a building that exists in your nightmares. It’s boarded up, it seems to always exist in a shadow, and its dark gray facade has been sitting around mostly unoccupied since the 1960s, which has made it a dream location for street artists. While the outside is covered in layers of posters and paint, and even poetry, it’s actually said to be a “bohemian dream house” with three occupants enjoying a surprisingly to-die-for apartment experience that comes with a built in canvas.
Bushwick Five Points in Bushwick, St. Nicholas Avenue and Troutman Street
Though the imminent disappearance of 5Pointz will be a huge loss for the city's street art scene, a new Five Points has emerged in Bushwick, where founder Joseph Ficalora has invited artists including Jim Avignon, ND'A, Nick Walker, Overunder, Joe Iurato, and many more to create massive new murals in the ever-expanding street art district.
Graffiti Hall of Fame in Harlem, 106th Street and Park Avenue
In Spanish Harlem lives “The Graffiti Hall of Fame,” a project established by community-minded street artist and activist Ray Rodriguez, known better by his alias, “Sting Ray.” This wall has seen the scribblings of some of the greatest hip-hop “writers” of all time, and was created to celebrate the art and culture of graffiti that the borough once deemed vandalism. Each year in June, artists from all over the world come to the official wall of fame event in hopes of getting a piece of it to show their stuff.
Welling Court Murals in Astoria, Welling Court and Vernon Boulevard
Now in its third season, the Ad Hoc Art-curated mural project takes over a tiny corner of Queens every summer with a wealth of new murals by local and international artists. The current batch includes works by Jaz, Never Satisfied, Chris Stain, M-City, and Sweet Toof.
East Second Street in the East Village, Between Second Avenue and Bowery
What could be more tempting for a street artist than two perfectly smooth black garage doors, waiting on a street like forgotten canvases ready to be transformed? That’s what can be found on the front doors of Ideal Glass in the East Village, as well as a garden that seems perfect for a feral bird by Belgian street artist ROA to perch in alongside another of his works, a rat scurrying by on a nearby stoop.
Vandervoort Place in Bushwick, Between Flushing Avenue and Thames Street
This alley behind the former street art gallery Factory Fresh continues to attract an impressive slate of artists, including a pair of ROA critters, a series of Faile stencils, and an incredibly long and intricate mural by Jim Avignon.
Freedom Tunnel on the West side of Manhattan, Beneath Riverside Park
There are many rumors about what’s under our feet in New York City. Alligators? The Illuminati? An underground old-timey movie-watching cult (thanks, "Law & Order SVU")? The list goes on. But there is an underground tunnel that plays home to an unlikely gallery of street art. This tunnel below Riverside Park, which is an active Amtrak train throughway, is the perfect isolated spot for artists to take on more complex pieces in peace, as random spots of light from street-level grates above provide a uniquely lit art viewing space.
Candy Factory in Soho, Grand Street and Wooster Street
Unfortunately, this old art-covered building is on the verge of being demolished to make way for condos. What was once a functioning Tootsie Roll factory — and directly across the street from street art-loving gallerist-turned-L.A. MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch's former gallery — is now known as simply “The Candy Factory,” an open space and favorite of street artists including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and JR. It will soon join the list of vanishing landmarks that once made up the art scene in Soho.
Houston and Bowery Mural on the Lower East Side, Houston Street at Bowery
Quite possibly the city's best-known street art space, made famous in the 1980s by Keith Haring and curated until recently by the late property developer Tony Goldman, the Houston mural space has been home to works by some of the world's biggest street artists over the last five years, from Shepard Fairey and Brazilian duo Os Gemeos to Faile, Lady Aiko, and currently How & Nosm.
Freeman Alley on the Lower East Side, at Rivington Street
Among Lower East Side galleries, brunch spots, and boutiques, sits a tucked away path called Freeman Alley. This spot is a favorite of local wheat pasters — including Hanksy — and tag scrawlers alike. Currently on view is some poetry from Dr. Za, and a political piece depicting a Japanese girl blowing a bubble from what looks like radioactive bubblegum by Gilf!
Gardner Avenue in Bushwick, Between Flushing and Johnson Avenues
In a far corner where Brooklyn turns into Queens near the inland-most tip of Newtown Creek, members of the Robots Will Kill street art crew have taken over a few blocks with collaborative murals featuring their eclectic styles, plus contributions from local cohorts including Elbow-Toe, Overunder, and Revs.
The Banks of the Gowanus Canal in Gowanus, Between 3rd and Union Streets
Though increasingly scrubbed clean as the area's gentrification and environmental cleanup gather momentum, the banks of the polluted Gowanus Canal — particularly between the 3rd Street and Union Street bridges, and around back of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company's abandoned Central Power Station — sees a steady turnover of work by both local and international street artists, including Overunder, Swoon, Shepard Fairey, and more.
Waterbury Street in Bushwick, Between Meserole and Scholes Streets
In this corner of Bushwick better known for its music studios and DIY venues, a healthy and huge street art program has taken root at the corner of Waterbury and Meserole streets, with large-scale works by the likes of Shepard Fairey, Never Satisfied, Jaz, and more adorning the low-rise warehouses.
Cortlandt Alley in Tribeca, Between Canal and Franklin Streets
This rather long and industrial ally off the beaten path is irresistible to street artists. Its gritty, industrial, seemingly forgotten space juxtaposed against the city’s most expensive apartments perhaps provides a surface too delicious for an artist not to mark up.
Pearl Street Triangle in DUMBO, Pearl and Water Streets
There isn't much turnover in the street art populating this pedestrian triangle in picturesque DUMBO — though it did play host to one of the first manifestations by the shadowy street art collective TrustoCorp — but it is home to what may be one of New York's most photographed murals, a massive, elephant-filled collaboration between Craig Anthony Miller, Demon 202, and other members of 303 Collective. Observant visitors may also come across a sneakily installed steel piece by Revs and a very large mural painted on the triangular plot of pavement by David Ellis.
South 5th Street in Williamsburg, at Kent Street
In addition to the wheatpastes and tags peppering the walls of the abandoned Domino Sugar plant across the street (which is slated to be turned into condos), street art duo How and Nosm collaborated with R. Robots on this sprawling, apocalyptic, euphoric, and post-human mural that wraps around the building on the corner of South 5th Street and Kent Avenue in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Comme des Garçons in Chelsea, West 22nd Street Between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues
While people usually pass through the funhouse-like door of Comme Des Garçons for the avant-garde couture inside, they get a treat when they stop to study the art on the building's exterior. The clothing brand exhibits pieces that are very structured and minimal, but the art adorning its New York flagship is refreshingly chaotic and bright. Our favorite feature at the moment is a piece by French street artist Invader of a Pac-Man ghost made from Rubik's Cubes.
Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Between Canal and Grand Streets
In November 2012, designated doors and walls in Little Italy were picked out by Vandalog’s RJ Rushmore, for an outdoor street art exhibition to promote the NYC Comedy Festival. The result is a lasting humours art tour including works by Hanksy, Gilf!, Ron English, and Veng — so enjoy a little street art with your spaghetti! Some graffiti with your gnocchi! Some creativity with your cannoli! You get the point.
North 1st Street in Williamsburg, at Kent Avenue
Though a number of the buildings near this intersection that have attracted street artists over the years — including the former Live With Animals gallery building, which is currently mid-demolition — have disappeared as the neighborhood has become over-run with condos, this particular corner continues to host some terrific murals and wheatpastes, including a current collaboration between Veng, Gilf!, and Chris RWK.