5 Rockaways Art Destinations to Hit This Summer

Casey Lesser
Jun 29, 2016 8:41PM

Since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Rockaways in 2012, ongoing efforts to rebuild the beachside community, from boardwalks to wrecked storefronts, have bolstered a wave of activity—summertime businesses, restaurants, surf culture, as well as platforms for arts and culture. This summer, before sunning in the sand or after surfing in the icy Atlantic, be sure to check out these art venues and exhibitions.


91-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard

Saturday–Sunday, 12–7 p.m. and by appointment

Left: Larissa Bates, The Epigenetics of Nurture (2015). Right: Beverly Semmes, Scratch (2016). Images courtesy of Topless gallery.

Artists Brent Birnbaum and Jenni Crain began Topless in 2014 as an initiative to revive Rockaway storefronts that were left vacant after Sandy. The storefronts are transformed into art spaces, held in a new location each year, and host four exhibitions over the course of the summer months. Topless maintains the history of their buildings (they’ve taken over former sites of an eye doctor’s office, a two-story bungalow, a tattoo parlor), while presenting fresh exhibitions of contemporary artists they admire. In addition to their exhibition schedule (listed below), this summer the gallery will present Topless Projects, a series of presentations in the backroom of their current location, which will include works by Eric Wiley and a show organized by Toronto gallery Roberta Pelan, among others.  

Jul. 2–Jul. 17

“Babble On,” featuring Toronto artists Nadia Belerique, Lili Huston-Herterich, and Laurie Kang

Opening: Jul. 2

Jul. 23–Aug. 7

A two-person show featuring Aude Pariset and Gavin Kenyon

Opening: Jul. 23

Aug. 13–28th

A solo show featuring Bedwyr Williams

Opening: Aug. 13

New York Arbor

114-07 Rockaway Beach Boulevard

Tuesday–Friday 6 p.m.–sundown; Saturday–Sunday 3–8 p.m.

Photo courtesy of New York Arbor.


Artist-entrepreneur George Turner opened this new gallery in March, in what is known as the Fecund Clown building—you can’t miss the smiling clown painting over its awning. Currently in its second exhibition, the gallery will present four exhibitions per year, one for each season, featuring artists who count the Rockaways among their inspirations.

Jun. 20–Aug. 15

“Summer Show,” featuring Linda Brandwein, Susan Graham, Roberta Lawson, Christopher Saucedo, and Joel Stoehr

Exhibitions at Rockaway Beach Surf Club

302 Beach 87th Street Rockaway Beach

Sunday–Saturday, 12 p.m.–12:30 a.m.

Left: Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Photo by Michael Rudin. Right: Susannah Ray, On the Jetty (2005).

A restaurant and bar dedicated to promoting surfing, Rockaway Beach Surf Club also offers an extensive calendar of cultural events, including live music, dance parties, and the New York City Women’s Surf Film Festival. Be sure to check out the exhibitions below while you’re there.

Jul. 8

“Life Below the Surface”: An exhibition of artifacts and images from the sea by Anthony Dooley

Opening reception: Jul. 8, 7–10 p.m.

Jul. 22–Aug. 9

“Right Coast,” Susannah Ray’s exhibition of photographs documenting New York City surf culture, which coincides with the release of a publication of the same name

Opening reception and book signing: Jul. 22, 6–8 p.m.

Aug. 12–15

“Prima Donna,” an exhibition of works by the Australian surf photographer Fran Miller, as part of the New York City Women’s Surf Film Festival, which runs August 12–14

Opening: Aug. 12, 7–9 p.m.

MoMA PS1’s “Rockaway!” featuring Katharina Grosse

Gateway National Recreation Area at Fort Tilden

Jul. 3–Nov. 30, 2016, Thursday–Sunday, 12–6 PM

Rendering of Katharina Grosse, Rockaway! (2016). Image courtesy of MoMA PS1.

MoMA PS1 presents a new installment of “Rockaway!,” its annual outdoor art programming at Fort Tilden. For this year’s edition, the internationally acclaimed German artist Katharina Grosse creates one of her signature spray-painted landscapes in Rockaway, dousing a derelict aquatics building in electric shades of pink, orange, and red.

Rockaway Artists Alliance’s “Forbidden Fruit: Street Art in a National Park”

sTudio 7 Gallery, Fort Tilden, Gateway National Recreation Area, Rockaway Point

July 2–Sept. 5, 2016. Saturday–Sunday, 12 p.m.–4 p.m. and by appointment

Artwork on view at Rockaway Artists Alliance’s “Forbidden Fruit: Street Art in a National Park.” Photos courtesy of Rockaway Artists Alliance.

With a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in honor of the centennial of the National Park Service, the Rockaway Artists Alliance presents a summer street art show which extends across its gallery and outdoor walls on Fort Tilden’s grounds. The exhibition includes the works of 14 invited artists, which are inspired by the environment and history of the Fort and Jamaica Bay.

“Forbidden Fruit” includes works by Carlos (See.Tf) Game, Heidi Unkefer, Lunar New Year, John Hedderson, Gaia Street, JMikal Davis aka Hellbent, See One, Christopher Cardinale, Magda Love, Cern One, Fefa Romănova, Gera Lozano, Garrison and Alison Buxton, and Federico Massa aka iena cruz.

Opening: Jul. 2, 12pm

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.