Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965 examines the New York art scene between the peak of Abstract Expressionism in the early 1950s and the rise of Pop Art and Minimalism in the early 1960s. Establishing co-operative and artist-run galleries, these artists enabled new aesthetic directions. Artists during this time helped expand the definition of what was considered “downtown” Manhattan, extending the perimeter eastward toward the tenements and industrial buildings of Lower Manhattan. These “co-op” spaces would help shape the creation and exhibition of their artworks.

The exhibition features over 200 works by more than 50 artists, with abstraction and figuration displayed alongside installation and performance art, thus revealing a scene that was much more diverse than has previously been acknowledged.

Organized by NYU’s Grey Art Gallery in New York, Inventing Downtown is the first major museum exhibition to survey these vital years from the vantage point of fourteen key artist-run galleries. Artists representative of these galleries, range from the well-known like, Yayoi Kusama, Alex Katz, Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg, and Yoko Ono, to lesser-known such as Ed Clark, Emilio Cruz, Lois Dodd, Rosalyn Drexler, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Jean Follett, Lester Johnson, Boris Lurie, Jan Müller, and Aldo Tambellini.


Inventing Downtown is curated by Melissa Rachleff, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Art and Art Professions at NYU’s Steinhardt School.