Seek Out Supercool Art at Boston's Grooviest Galleries

Where to find amazing artworks in cool, and often hidden, spaces.

For art lovers Boston really is the gift that keeps on giving. The city’s major art museums—including the ICA, the MFA, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Harvard Art Museums—are all world-class rabbit holes of wonderment: leaving them tends to render the real world rather flat and grey by comparison. The major players are, however, only part of Boston’s complete art picture. Explore the city’s side streets, innocuous-looking first-floor walk-ups and less-trodden alleyways, and you’ll soon uncover a matrix of alternative galleries every bit as marvelous as their big-name counterparts.

Many of these one-room treasures belong to the various art and design districts that have planted firm roots over the past decade, from SOWA to the Fort Point Arts Community and the edgy studios of East Boston. Others seem to sprout up organically, attached to office spaces, cutting-edge restaurants or apartment buildings. Here are some of our favorites to get you started, but this list is by no means exhaustive—feel free to forge your own route and unlock Boston’s hidden universe of incredible art.

International Poster Gallery

Amazing Gazing

One of the great secrets of Boston’s art multiverse is the work on public view at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Point. “The Boston Panels”—a permanent installation by Ellsworth Kelly in the rotunda—is worth the visit here alone, and there’s an additional series of galleries spread across upper and lower floors.

Part-restaurant (Cafe ArtScience), part-gallery, part-futuristic head trip, Le Laboratoire Cambridge is quite simply one of the coolest conceptual spaces in all of Boston. The brainchild of mercurial polymath (and former Where Boston cover star) David Edwards, it offers regular public lectures in addition to great food and art. “The Long Now Exhibition” runs through Dec. 16, 2017.

If you like to be blown away by amazing photography, head down to the Leica Store and Gallery, home to recent exhibitions by EJ Camp and Alain Laboile. Leica legend Jim Marshall (1936-2010)—chronicler of the 1960s counter-culture—comes into focus through Dec. 31, 2017, in “Jim Marshall: Jazz Festival.”

A fixture on the Newbury Street scene for 23 years, the International Poster Gallery has now joined the South End’s hub of very groovy galleries: SOWA Art + Design District. Rock up on site and enjoy their current themed exhibition.

"The Island That Nobody Knows" at pinkcomma

Artful Office Spaces

You might think you’ve stumbled by accident into someone’s office space en route to the pinkcomma gallery—and, in fact, you have. The diminutive gallery belongs to over,under (an architecture and design practice) whose eye for the remarkable has produced a string of great, small-scale exhibitions.

Boston art scene aficionados know to keep their ears to the ground, because pop-up galleries are always on the cards. Back Bay creative agency Amalgam hosts Sanctuary, an exhibition of extraordinary video-paintings by the Safarani Sisters, through January 2018.

Housed in a high-rise of offices and urban lofts overlooking Fort Point Channel, The Gallery at Atlantic Wharf is a well-appointed showcase for the Fort Point Arts Community, a collective of more than 300 artists who work in a variety of media. “The Future of Work” runs through Jan. 6, 2018.

"Golden Wheat Field" by Samir Sammoun

Newbury Street Stunners

The historical credentials of the Copley Society of Art are immaculate: founded in the 1870s, Co|So is the oldest non-profit art association in the U.S., and in 1913 hosted an exhibition of promising modernists that included works by Duchamp, Kandinsky, Picasso and Van Gogh. Exhibits on show until Dec. 24, 2017, include “Spaces” by Kristin Stashenko and “Holiday Small Works.”

Need a dose of Takashi Murakami—also the subject of a major show at the MFA—but you’re out shopping on Newbury Street? Look no further than DTR Modern Galleries which hosts a solo exhibition of Murakami’s graphic works during December 2017. You might also run into something by Matisse, Warhol, Koons or Hirst.

Opened in the year 2000 with an exhibition of Rembrandt etchings, Galerie D’Orsay has gone from strength to strength and enjoys a prime location near the Boston Public Garden. Highlights through the years have included shows featuring Chagall’s “Circus Suite” and Picasso’s hand-signed linocuts. In December 2017, check out “Honored Traditions: Samir Sammoun & Gustavo Torres.”

One of the great surprises of Boston’s small gallery scene is the cunning way the Krakow Witkin Gallery has secreted itself in a standard Newbury Street office building: prepare to have your perspective on the world forever altered by the likes of Ed Ruscha and Josef Albers.