Home to the oldest museum in the United States, Philadelphia is the city with flourishing art scene. From the streets where you can see spectacular murals (note that Philadelphia has more public art than any other city in the United States) to hidden exhibition places, such as the extraordinary labyrinth decorated with mosaics, to sweet little art galleries exhibiting contemporary art, or the studio that is all about clay, the fifth-most-populous city in the country does not lack art content. Parts of Philly such as South Street and Old City have a vibrant night life and are home to the most exquisite galleries. The first Friday night of each month, rain or shine, the Old City Arts Association hosts First Friday, an unique and insanely popular cultural event, which started when a group of galleries in Old City held a collaborative “open house” for art show openings. It quickly became one of Philadelphia’s most interesting, distinctive cultural events, and extended from the Old City to other neighborhoods. Nowadays, First Fridays often take the form of an “art walk”, with a plethora of exciting events for art lovers of all kinds.
Since the choice of art galleries in Philadelphia is very extensive, we’re making our suggestion.
Paradigm Gallery + Studio - Exhibiting Local
Paradigm Gallery + Studio was voted best art gallery by Philly HOTLIST in 2014. What makes this gallery stand out are interesting contemporary and thoughtful pieces on display, mainly by the artists from Philadelphia. When co-founders and curators, Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston, set up this venue in 2010, they had a wish to create a place where they could make their own art pieces, promote the work of emerging Philadelphia-based artists and engage the whole local community in learning more about local artists or to creating their own art. Although it exhibits some of the international art, the focus of this gallery is predominantly on promoting and supporting the art created in the city. This wonderful, welcoming place is a must-see in Philadelphia!
Images couresty of Paradigm Gallery + Studio
Arch Enemy Arts - Old City's Freshest Venue
Arch Enemy Arts is located in Philadelphia’s Old City District and established in 2012. The gallery claims to be the freshest new art place in the city, exhibiting both international and local artwork, encompassing lowbrow, representational, pop surrealism, photo-realism, decorative, figurative, urban, macabre and illustrative style art, in different mediums and by both acclaimed and young artists. It seems that the gallery-owners are not exaggerating, since this place won the Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly”™ Best Art Gallery for its 40th Anniversary issue and scored the first place on Philly HotList’s Best Gallery in 2013, and in 2012.
Images courtesy of Arch Enemy Arts
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens - The Hidden Gem on the South Street
As the name suggests, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is the most magical place in Philly. It is a non-profit organization, folk art venue and gallery space. This hidden gem is spanning across the area of 3,000 square feet (280 m2) and located on the South Street, notorious for its alternative and bohemian vibe. If you pay the ticket, you will enter Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic and mural palace. It took him 14 years to create this unique venue, which consists of indoor galleries and large outdoor labyrinth. It hosts mosaics and sculptures made out of everything you could imagine, from bicycle wheels via glittering mirrors to old bottles. Although it can be visited in 15 minutes, most visitors take much more time to absorb the visual explosion that is surrounding them. Anyone who has entered this whimsical and colorful place claims that photos don’t do any justice – you have to see it yourself.
Images courtesy of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
The Bazemore Gallery - Art Collectors for Art Collectors
The Bazemore Gallery is a boutique art gallery, located in Manayunk, the historic neighborhood of Philadelphia. The gallery exhibits contemporary artwork of mid-level and established artists. Lenny Bazemore, the gallery’s director (and a visual artist himself) and his wife have been passionate art collectors for years, and when they set up the gallery, they intended to help the others find the artwork that would enrich and bring the beauty to their lives. The interior design of the Bazemore Gallery is based on five elements of Feng Shui, whose principles Lenny mastered in China, and welcoming to all art collectors and television and movie companies looking to rent art work for productions.
Image courtesy of The Bazemore Gallery
Institute of Contemporary Art - Premier Contemporary Art Spot
Institute of Contemporary art was founded in 1963, and since its beginnings, it has been focused on discovering up-and-coming stars of the contemporary art world. The best example is Andy Warhol’s first solo exhibition in 1965 that was hosted by the Institute and which attracted a great deal of attention, launching him into the stardom. Some of the other artists who had their first shows in this venue are Laurie Anderson, Vija Celmins, Karen Kilimnik, Agnes Martin and Robert Indiana. The place, which has been defining the latest trends in contemporary art, is associated with the University of Pennsylvania, and situated on its premises. The current building, built in 1990, is wide, spacious and providing enough room for the artists to get wild with their paintings and installations.
Images courtesy of ICA
Vox Populi - The Self-organized Collective
Vox Populi is the exhibition place and an artistic collective, which was established in 1988, when seven artists met at a local bar and decided to tackle the problem of too few artistic opportunities, through self-organized action. They formed Vox Populi, found a venue, and recruited 30 new members. Nowadays, Vox Populi hosts solo and group exhibitions of its members, but also guest exhibitions. In addition to that, it organizes performances, lectures and gallery talks. It is the venue where under-represented artists receive valuable support and the attention they need. It is clear that Philadelphia need a space where artists can exchange their ideas and influence each other’s artistic growth.
Image courtesy of Chiaozza
Wexler Gallery - Blurring the Lines
Wexler Gallery is located in Philly’s historic district and was set up in 2000. Since then, it has hosted many excellent shows by both established artists and fresh talents, such as Howard Werner, Vivian Beer, Dale Chihuly and William Morris. The artwork which is on display in this gallery is both functional (furniture, jewelry, ceramics) and non-functional (sculpture, photography, prints, paintings) Wexler Gallery tries to escape labels and boundaries, by presenting innovative and unique art, and proving that the line between art and design is often very fine. The only underlying connection between the exhibitions is the commitment to innovation and quality.
Image courtesy of Wexler Gallery
The Fleisher/Ollman Gallery - Intuitive and Innovative
The Fleisher/Ollman Gallery was set up by Janet Fleisher in 1952. The gallery was known as an eclectic, forward-thinking spot for promotion of self-taught art and discovering emerging artists. Henry Darger, Bill Traylor and Martin Ramirez had their first major exhibitions in this venue. Janet Fleisher retired in 1996, and John Ollman, her assistant, became the gallery’s sole owner. He changed the focus of the gallery from self-taught to contemporary art which is influenced by self-taught, such as the influence of artists like Joseph Yoakum and Martin Ramirez on Jim Nutt. It reflects the new tendencies of the contemporary artists to abandon academic and go for intuitive. The Gallery has taken part in many art fairs, such as Art Basel, Art Chicago, Köln Art Fair, Intuit Fair and The Armory Modern.
Image courtesty of The Fleisher/Ollman Gallery
The Clay Studio - The Ceramics Paradise
The Clay Studio is an exhibition space, a ceramics studio and a community-oriented educational venue. It all started in 1974, when a group of artists needed a space for creating ceramic art. They were aware that professionals, fresh out of art school, are in need of a space where they could work, explore and exchange ideas. Soon, The Clay Studio became the place with educational role, with the aim to engage the whole community, from children and art lovers to professionals, and show that clay is an accessible, tactile medium. By organizing numerous educational events and exhibitions, their goal is to turn the spotlight on ceramic arts. One thing is sure – you cannot stay indifferent to the stunning works of ceramics in The Clay Studio.
Image courtesy of The Clay Studio
Pentimenti Gallery - Abstract and Unusual
Pentimenti Gallery is a contemporary exhibition place, where both established international and emerging artists exhibit their artwork. It is situated in an old, historical building in the Old City District. The gallery hosts everything from abstract and figurative art to innovative works created from unconventional materials, such as packaging tape, marine vinyl and embroidered x-rays. Its represented artists have exhibtions both in the US and abroad. The gallery has been of interest to many publications and renowned art fairs, such as CONTEXT Art Miami, Miami Project Art Fair, and Texas Contemporary.
Images courtesy of Pentimenti Gallery
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