History of Visual Art in the Village of NYC

Snow in New York by Robert Henri
Snow in New York by Robert Henri (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

The art that has come out of Greenwich Village since the turn of the 20th century has pushed boundaries and inspired entire new movements. The stellar architecture of the Village’s “Gilded Age,” spanning from 1870-1900, opened up the area for writers, artists, actors and other creative types who would come to influence the art world with styles including expressionism, surrealism and even street art.


“Artistic flats” began popping up all around the Village in the early 1900s, and the era’s artists often dabbled in experimental forms of art, what is now considered avant-garde. Socialite and sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney used her considerable wealth to support a variety of young struggling artists, especially female artists. She established her first studio for the exhibition of avant-garde work in 1914 at 8 West 8th Street, which was then called the Whitney Studio Club and today is the home of the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.

Abstract Expressionism

Other wealthy New York socialites also supported young artists in the 20th century. Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery opened in 1942, in part to further the careers of artists whose work she found influential, including the expressionist Jackson Pollock, who’s first solo show was held at the gallery in 1943. Pollock used his entire body while painting and moved all around the canvas with the “drip technique” he developed using liquid paint.

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), National Galle...
Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guggenheim was a big fan of abstract expressionism and surrealism, and the gallery was a sort of piece of art itself, with the rotating Kinetic Gallery section being described as a “carnival funhouse.” The Art of This Century closed in 1947.

Pop Art, Warhol and SAMO

The years between 1960 and 1990 saw an influx of experimentation in the Village art scene. Although Andy Warhol opened “The Factory,” his famous art studio, on 47th Street in 1962, and he held his first solo exhibition the same year at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery, Warhol was a mainstay on the Greenwich Village scene, appearing at parties and coffee shops on a daily basis. Many of the actual artists of the 60s lived in the Village so it was the epicenter of the art scene.

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup I, 1968.
Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup I, 1968. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Warhol has been said to have changed contemporary art, and his “pop art” style, characterized by vibrant colors and product placement, remains popular today. Warhol is said to have not only made art but to have done his best to challenge people’s perceptions of what art is.

The Village today still buzzes with art. Many students of arts roam the Village, galleries are located there (though not nearly as many as Chelsea) and established artists still prefer the lofts of the Village. That is why AyzArt is a perfect fit for this art rich neighborhood.