Also not to be missed at No. 14 is the Miller Block Gallery, where you’ll find paintings and drawings with a more care-free vibe by artists you may not know but should. And, while you’re on the same floor of No. 14, check out Judy Ann Goldman Fine Art, whose eponymous director has a good eye for colorful abstract paintings and spare, quietly beautiful photographs.
If you’re looking for Goldman, don’t be surprised if you instead find the Beth Urdang Gallery, which shares the same space every other month and exhibits an eclectic mix of paintings and drawings spanning the 20th and now 21st centuries. Whereas Goldman shows up and coming artists, you might find an Alexander Calder print or two at Urdang.
Gallery Naga, which occupies space in a church at 67 Newberry Street, has a bifurcated focus in fine art and furniture. The gallery is located within sacred walls, but director Arthur Dion—who also heads the Boston Art Dealers Association—isn’t averse to showing the occasional piece of art or furniture with an irreverent flare. For the most part, his taste runs toward a mixture of painterly abstract art—blobs of paint precisely applied to a canvas—and architectural views.
Another gallery that occupies its own space—five entire floors of a building at 171 Newbury Street—is Pucker Gallery. Although you’ll find some contemporary paintings here, the gallery contains a treasure trove of pottery, porcelains, bronzes, and small sculptures, with a special focus in Asian artists. To see these works, though, you’ll have to ask a gallery attendant to escort you, via a very cozy elevator, to the building’s upper floors.
Pucker has occupied the same building since 1967. Just a few doors down, at 130 Newbury Street, the Judi Rotenberg Gallery has been around almost as long. Founded in 1971, it’s now run by Rotenberg’s daughter, Abigail Ross, together with Kristen Dodge. The pair have brought a renewed commitment to the gallery’s focus on emerging artists and they’ll also mount retrospectives of older, lesser known artists such as Zygmund Jankowski. Rotenberg is also one of the few spaces on the street that shows video art and installations.
Other spaces not to miss on your visit to Newbury Street include the Mercury Gallery and Nielsen Gallery, which offer an impressive line-up of mid-century American work. Newbury Street is also the Boston outpost of DTR Modern, which features work by superstar artists including Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol.
If older paintings and sculptures are more your style, check out Vose Galleries of Boston. Dating to 1841, it’s the oldest family-owned art gallery in the nation. Vose sold paintings to the Museum of Fine Art when it was founded in the 1870s—and it continued to do so even as late as the 1990s. It’s no wonder that Abbott “Bill” Vose, co-president of the gallery and part of the family’s fifth generation (his daughters, the sixth generation, are also in the business), says that going to the MFA is “like visiting old friends.”
Galerie D’Orsay also boasts an unparalleled collection of world-class, deceased artists (as they’re prosaically known in the trade). Although you’ll find a few American painters here, such as Mary Cassatt and Whistler, D’Orsay specializes in European artists: everyone from Gaugin and Manet, to Rembrandt and Renoir. Its selection also includes deceased artists active during the 20th century, including Matisse and Picasso, as well as superstar artists alive today such as David Hockney.
Childs Gallery is another Newbury Street institution: open since 1937, it’s also the longest running commercial gallery on the street. It offers a range of prints, drawings, and paintings that come to it via “the capacious attics of New Englanders,” as the gallery’s Website notes. Most works are by lesser known artists who operate in the style of contemporary masters, but you may be surprised to find a treasure or two among the lot.
2. Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill, a neighborhood that borders Boston Common—a 50-acre plot in the center of town—and stretches north to the Charles River, is the type of place that visitors probably have in mind when they think of a typical Boston environment: brick-clad Federalist buildings line its narrow streets.
Ironically, Beacon Hill was built up during the early 19th century and is far from the city’s oldest neighborhood. It’s here, though, that here you’ll find a concentration of antique shops and art dealers that specialize in pre-20th century work. A dozen or more of them shoulder space along Charles Street. You’ll find everything from antiquarian bookshops and map dealers, such as Guariri Collections and Eugene Galleries (76 Charles St., 617-227-3062), to specialists in Asian art and pottery, such as Alberts-Langdon Oriental Art and Judith Dowling Asian Art.
3. South End
Although they’re both situated south of downtown Boston, the South End is not to be confused with South Boston (which lies across a stretch of water known as the Fort Point Channel). Closer to Back Bay, the South End is essentially defined by two streets, Washington and Tremont, that run almost parallel to each other from Boston’s Theater District out to the suburbs. Along Tremont, the more lively of the two, you’ll find restaurants, cafés, bookshops, and funky boutiques. The cross streets are more residential in character, but are worth a stroll for their well-tended gardens and Victorian architecture.
As rents on Newbury Street crept upward during the 1990s real estate boom, a number of that street’s galleries made the move to the South End. They concentrated in a converted warehouse at 450 Harrison Avenue. The complex, home to more than a dozen galleries as well as 50 artists studios, is also known as “The Galleries at Thayer Street,” because Thayer Street—now a pedestrian mall—runs the length of the building. Neighborhood boosters are also trying to re-christen this area SoWA, short for “South of Washington Avenue.”
Although 450 Harrison is a bit of a trek from Tremont Street, and the immediate area surrounding it offers next to nothing in the way of cafés or places to pause in between seeing galleries, the hike is well worth it. Unlike Newbury Street, which feels almost staid by comparison, the galleries here specialize in experimental art by emerging artists—most of them based locally.