Hunter College Art Galleries

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  2/5
Time spent
  • 205 Hudson: 21 minutes
  • Leubsdorf: 12 minutes
  • East Harlem: 17 minutes
  • Artist’s Institute: 3 minutes

Total: 53 minutes

Best thing I saw or learned At 205 Hudson, Dario Robelto’s “I Miss Everyone Who Has Ever Gone Away,” 1997 recreated 2007. 

Hunter College Art Galleries

Little airplanes folded from the wrappers of candies from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s famous candy-pile artworks memorializing AIDS victims.  It’s artistic appropriation in the most unexpected and literal way.

I discovered early in this project that just about every college in New York City has some kind of public art gallery or museum. Some are extremely impressive, like NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. A few have a specific focus, like the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art. And some of them are surprisingly impressive and hard to get to, like the Lehman College Art Gallery and the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College.

Hunter College boasts not one but four art venues, collectively the “Hunter College Art Galleries.” If this were earlier in my museum expedition, I probably would write about each of them separately. At this stage, though, I crave variety in my write-ups, to say nothing of efficiency. And Hunter itself thinks of them in the collective. So my review covers all four spaces in one. It gets four dots on the map, though.

205 Hudson Gallery

Hunter College Art GalleriesHunter keeps studios for its MFA and BFA students in a Canal Street building that also boasts its largest and nicest art venue.

On my visit, I saw “Copy, Translate, Repeat: Contemporary Art from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros.” The show is a review or reassessment of the idea of “appropriation” in contemporary art. “Appropriation” is a fraught concept, at least when white artists explore themes, materials, or approaches outside of the Euro-American tradition. This show examines appropriation in the other direction, primarily looking at Latin American artists reflecting on, parodying, or utilizing canonical “European” techniques to make their art.

Hunter College Art Galleries

The 205 Hunter space is super-modern, open but divided across two levels, with concrete floors, extremely high ceilings, and big windows looking out onto Canal Street.

Hunter College Art Galleries

I thought this was a good show, well curated, thoughtful, and with a good dose of humor leavening the politics of the art. If it’s typical of what Hunter shows at 205 Hudson, I recommend a visit.

Hunter East Harlem Gallery

Hunter College Art GalleriesHunter’s Silberman School of Social Work is located in East Harlem. Its lobby features a small-but-bright gallery space, in a part of Manhattan where art galleries start to grow scarce. The exhibition I saw there was called “Queenie,” consisting of art by women from the collection of the currently-under-renovation El Museo del Barrio.

I liked the show a lot. Small and tightly focused, it’s definitely not a comprehensive survey, but the pieces selected played off one another well and covered diverse media and approaches. Including a surprising amount of textile art: embroidery and even an adorable plush felt hand grenade. It’s the kind of show I would’ve liked to see (bigger and more comprehensive) at El Museo itself.

Interestingly, several wall texts in this show, like the one at 205 Hudson, spoke to ideas of “appropriation” in a positive, not pejorative, sense. If it’s appropriate to appropriate, then go ahead and do it? Situationally dependent, of course.

Hunter College Art Galleries
East Harlem Gallery Interior

Like most museums in contemporary buildings, the East Harlem Gallery is bright, high-ceilinged, with big windows. The art spills out a bit into the lobby of the Social Work building, too. It’s too small to justify the journey north. However, if you happen to be in the neighborhood for other reasons (whatever those might be), why not stop by.

Hunter College Art Galleries
Alessandra Expósito, “Queenie,” 2006

Bertha & Karl Leubsdorf Gallery

Hunter College Art GalleriesI have the sense this is the “main” Hunter College art gallery–or at least the oldest of them. It’s located on the main Hunter campus, and has the fancy patron name. But the space is quite small and somewhat gloomy.  Were I the Leubsdorfs I might want to chat with Hunter’s Powers that Be about naming 205 Hudson instead of this modest space.

On view was a small selection of work, mainly drawings, by Juan Downey, a Chilean-born but mainly U.S.-based artist. Downey created video, performance, and conceptual work, usually with some flavor of concern for the environment or social justice.  

Hunter College Art Galleries

Given the small space it was necessarily a tiny show, focusing on a few works, around bees, plant-based communication, and a sort of idealized concept for a domicile.  It was the kind of exhibit where you probably had to know Downey and his work and circle going in for it to really make sense.  Which I didn’t.

The Artist’s Institute

Hunter College Art GalleriesAlthough it is one of the galleries of the Hunter College Art Galleries, this fourth space seems to focus more on presentation and education — performances and events — than on hosting exhibitions.

It’s on the ground floor of a charming townhouse, called Casa Lally, which held an Italian language institute in the 1970. It still hosts Hunter’s Italian language program today, as well as its arts program.

There wasn’t anything on display on the day I visited, but I peeked in. The art space is tiny, probably only worth it if you are visiting for an event. That said, if you are an artist or have aspirations along those lines, you might want to keep an eye on the Artist’s Institute calendar.

Should You Visit the Hunter College Art Galleries?

Like virtually all the college art museums, I’d answer a resounding “it depends.” If you find yourself in the vicinity of any of them, it’s almost certainly worth dropping in to see whatever’s on. It won’t take long. It’s much harder to say any of these places merits a special trip. They’re all fairly small, and will inevitably be hit-or-miss experiences.

Of the four of them, the 205 Hudson space is easily the best one. It’s good to know about given the scarcity of art venues in the far western reaches of Tribeca.

Hunter College Art Galleries
Jessica Kairé, “CONFORT Tropical Hand Grenade (Special Edition),” 2011

For Reference:

  • 205 Hudson:  self-explanatory
  • Artist’s Institute:  132 East 65th Street
  • East Harlem Gallery:  2180 Third Avenue (at 119th Street)
  • Leubsdorf Gallery: 132 East 68th Street

All in Manhattan

Cost  General Admission:  Free