Though Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood is easily accessible, full of artist lofts, and synonymous with Robert De Niro’s famous film festival, its gallery scene has long been overshadowed by those of SoHo and Chelsea. Yet over the past decade, thanks to its unique architecture and comparatively low real estate prices, Tribeca has become a leading area for emerging and established galleries to plant their roots.
Unlike the commercial Chelsea arts district, Tribeca features a robust ecosystem of residential housing. The neighborhood’s name, in fact, comes from the legendary housing rights organization, the Triangle Below Canal Block Association, that opposed rapid redevelopment plans in the 1960s.
This communal, grassroots atmosphere still permeates the neighborhood and appeals to the galleries that have decided to move here. They team up for biannual iterations of the Tribeca Gallery Walk (TGW), an evening when they extend their hours to 8 p.m. In advance of the forthcoming fall TGW, on September 29th, Artsy spoke to TGW organizer Anna Peterson (who also works as a gallery associate at Bortolami), along with several other Tribeca-based galleries. They shared how Tribeca’s community orientation allows new and established galleries to flourish.
“Architecturally, there are more opportunities for smaller galleries to rent out a space that used to be a former office, whereas that is not the case for Chelsea,” Peterson told me as we walked up to Bortolami’s new second-floor extension at 39 Walker Street. The expansion was possible thanks to the relationship Bortolami built with the upstairs tenant.
Peterson worked at the gallery when it was located in Chelsea, before its 2017 move to Tribeca. She enjoys the fact that in Tribeca, she’s working amid a variety of businesses and individuals. “Chelsea is so starkly just galleries,” she said. “Whereas here, there are coffee shops, we know all of our neighbors in the buildings, and there are restaurants that we frequent. There is just a much larger sense of community in that real people exist here.”
Most Tribeca galleries bear some traces of an architectural past, such as trap doors and basements that circumvent flooding. These relics make the spaces feel quirky, lived in, and different from newly constructed white cubes.
Peterson noted that this residential atmosphere contributes to galleries’ interactions with one another. “The other day I was standing outside, and someone from Mendes Wood DM came over and started to talk about putting planters outside the gallery so that we could have more foliage,” she said. “I don’t think it would have ever happened in Chelsea.”
As TGW’s organizer, Peterson wants to foster such collegial relationships among local galleries. She encourages close dialogues among neighboring galleries, networking and problem-solving as a group. Together, they work out event planning and installation issues, sharing knowledge and resources.
James Cohan started the TGW initiative in September 2020 with support of Audrée Anid (associate director of James Cohan Gallery) with the aim of creating more time, after work hours, for both visitors and Tribeca residents to engage with the galleries. “[TGW] aligns with our gallery’s ethos: to be an open resource for experiencing and learning about the work of our artists,” Cohan wrote to Artsy. “The impetus for the walk was to encourage the galleries in this neighborhood to collaborate and support one another, and its continued growth is reflective of the strength of the community we’ve found here in Tribeca.”
Other Tribeca galleries expressed enthusiasm for the initiative. “It’s been fun to be a part of [TGW] as it’s grown over the past few years, particularly as the neighborhood itself continues to flourish,” said Daniel Kapp, co-director of Kapp Kapp. “There’s a special community in Tribeca quite unlike any other gallery neighborhood in New York, and I think that’s very much to do with TGW and the effort Stefania Bortolami and her team have put in.”
“[TGW] is always a fun way to collaborate with our colleagues and build off of the energy surrounding the neighborhood,” said Ella Blanchon, associate director of P.P.O.W. Lucas Page, director of PAGE (NYC), said that he’s excited about the Tribeca scene’s growing momentum, which he credits to the neighborhood’s rich amalgam of spaces and galleries.
Jordan Barse, director of Theta, additionally wrote that, “As a small, new gallery, it’s a great comfort to be enmeshed in a community of some of my favorite galleries in New York. We really appreciate the encouragement [TGW] provides to visitors interested in exploring the area and seeing new shows.”
Peterson is thrilled that such emerging galleries are springing up and staying in the area. “There are a lot of younger galleries like Kapp Kapp, PAGE (NYC), Queer Thoughts—all great galleries that got their start in these smaller, utilitarian office buildings that architecturally do not exist in Chelsea,” she said. “Spaces like these afford them the chance to show what they love.”