Most of the New York art galleries close in August as collectors and directors trade in pristine white walls for clear blue skies. I took the opportunity to stroll through the shuttered gallery district in Chelsea and appreciate the incredible art outdoors and underfoot. Artist names are listed when known (or rumored). If you know one that I don’t, please share in the comments.

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

Arthur Rimbaud, a mid-19th century French poet, influenced countless artists and writers before retiring at the age of 19 and dying at the age of 37. His portrait is masterfully and inexplicably dripped throughout Manhattan (above). There’s a great concentration of 5 of them along 22nd Street in Chelsea. Artist: Paul Richard.

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

These robotic characters occupy at least 5 crosswalks along 10th Avenue. Made from that reflective adhesive material used for street stripes and signs (and as far as I know, impossible to obtain outside of the industry). The heat and cars have distorted and infused each with unique personalities. Artist: Stikman.

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

Along the congested, loud and super-windy 11th Avenue between 21st & 22nd Street hides a tiny and incredible mosaic of mother of pearl framed in a sawed-off street sign. I’ve walked by a thousand times and it always gives me pause. Beautiful. Artist unknown.

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

I counted exactly 12 Ravens and 3 pigeons among the galleries – most (like the pair above) are along 22nd Street. Artist unknown.

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

My favorite graffiti pun of all time is fading after years of foot traffic and extreme weather conditions. This is the clearest of four “Mini Maos” remaining in the neighborhood, photographed on 20th Street between 10th & 11th Avenue. Artist: Dog Byte.

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

The only “official” work of art on these sidewalks consists of 23 basalt stones embedded in the concrete along 22nd Street. Titled “7000 oaks” by famous German artist Joseph Beuys, the stones are actually markers for the trees, first planted in ’88 before the first gallery entered the neighborhood. The idea is that the relationship between stone & tree are constantly changing as the trees grow and the stones weather (or get hit by cars… in the case of at least 1 of these).

Illegal and Underrated: The Sidewalks of the Gallery District in main art  Category

The sun has to be just right to even notice these 2 small handprints in the sidewalk on 24th Street. For me it recalls both childhood and Hollywood. Brilliant.

Keep your eyes out (and down) next time you’re between galleries.

All photos by David Behringer.