Five Best NYC Gallery Shows of the Last Year (2011-2012)

08.23.12 | By
Five Best NYC Gallery Shows of the Last Year (2011-2012)

Most NYC contemporary art galleries take a break in the summer, so in anticipation of the approaching year (Sept-July), I’m taking a look back at my five favorite experiences in the galleries of the 2011/2012 season. I’ll return to finding and sharing incredible current exhibitions after Labor Day.

Ernesto Neto at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
April 14 – May 25 2012
Last spring, the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery presented the hanging work of Ernesto Neto. After you admired the crocheted “sculptures” for a few minutes, a gallery attendant invited you to take off your shoes and climb on!!! I desperately want one of the smaller hangers for my living room (yes they’re as comfortable as they look).

Images courtesy of the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Exhibition website & more images

Leandro Erlich at Sean Kelly Gallery
Sept 10 – Oct 22, 2011
If you entered the Sean Kelly Gallery last fall, you’d find a bay of elevators… which was strange because the gallery is only one floor. Once inside the elevators however, you would notice something even more strange: you had no reflection. It turns out that the majority of “mirrors” in this sculpture by Leandro Erlich are not mirrors at all – they are open windows into a three-dimensional reconstruction of the elevator in reverse!! You can put your hand right through!

Next, if you dared, you could duck into a small dark passageway to find an elevator shaft turned horizontal. The feeling was not only disorienting, but a bit frightening as you walked towards the elevator at the end, unsure if it would move to crush you (it didn’t).

Installation views of Leanardo Erlich: Two Different Tomorrows at Sean Kelly Gallery
© Leandro Erlich,  photography: Jason Wyche, New York
Courtesy: Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Exhibition website & more images

Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin Gallery
Sept 8 – Oct 22, 2011
Artist Do Ho Suh presented the most intricate sculpture of the year at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery: a 1/5th scale replica of the apartment he moved into from Korea in 1991.

The brilliance of this piece was that you COULD easily see the whole thing at once (as in the first photo), but you didn’t. It was SO detailed that you never looked ahead, making the gradual destruction of the rooms as you moved right a total surprise. And that’s when the full impact of the piece hits you – almost literally. Turning the corner you are surprised by ANOTHER house crashing into it: a 1/5th scale replica of his childhood home in Korea, arriving via parachute.

Images courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York and Hong Kong.
Exhibition website & more images

Richard Serra at Gagosian Gallery
Sept 14 – Nov 26, 2011
Richard Serra sculptures are best experienced from the inside but best photographed from the air. The first image below was shot outside, before it was moved inside the Gagosian Gallery. This exhibition contained two of these massive and dizzying labyrinths of rusted steel. The gallery released all these photos in black & white, so I included a photo below of a couple of friends to give a sense of the amazing color.

Images courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
Exhibition website & more images

Doug Wheeler at David Zwirner Gallery
Jan 17 – Feb 25, 2012
In the bleakness of last winter, Doug Wheeler presented my favorite exhibition of the year at the David Zwirner Gallery: an empty room. Visitors could enter only a few at a time (wait times amounted to over two hours) and were asked to take off their shoes and don paper booties. In addition to painting the floors and ceilings pure white, Wheeler meticulously rounded all the corners of the room and lit the space in such a way as to prevent any shadows. The result was a space so empty that your eyes had no frame of reference to gauge distance. Appropriately, he calls it an “infinity environment.” Gallery staff warned you to stop when the floor began to curve (about 15 steps farther than you thought) so you didn’t hit the back wall.

SA MI 75 DZ NY 12
Photos by Jonathan Smith
Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York © 2012 Doug Wheeler
Exhibition website & more images

David Behringer visits over 200 galleries every month to uncover and share the most exciting contemporary art in New York today. Subscribe to his exclusive weekly newsletter at and learn about his private gallery tours. And be sure to check out his YouTube.