what critics and the media have said
Condé Nast Traveler
"...the [Chelsea] area is booming with nearly 240 cutting-edge contemporary galleries... ...take a tour organized by art critic Merrily Kerr for a better understanding of the glitz and the grit behind some of the fabulous pieces of art."
Condé Nast Traveler Magazine
New York Times
"Next, Ms. Passons [concierge at Greenwich Hotel] suggested a guide from New York Art Tours to accompany our faux big-spender through downtown galleries..."
New York Times, Seth Kugel, Frugal Traveller, Nov 2015
Sydney Morning Herald
"...one of New York's most established art tour guides. [Merrily Kerr] who has lived in New York for 16 years and has been showing tourists and locals through museums and galleries for the past decade, offers dozens of tour options.
If you're new to New York, though, Merrily recommends starting with her Chelsea art tour. "It's more accessible, the production values are higher and you see art that is sometimes interactive," she says. "There's a big wow factor in Chelsea." Sometimes you can still find that wow factor on the Lower East Side galleries, too, Merrily says, but there's always a risk. "You might walk in a gallery, and there'll be a sheet of plastic on the floor and a piece of wood propped against the wall," she says. "I could explain it! But it tries people's patience a little bit." Without Merrily's assistance, you could easily walk past some of Chelsea's cavernous warehouse-sized galleries and assume they're invitation-only showrooms. But, says Merrily, while all are privately owned, most are free to the public and contain blockbuster works that could compete against anything at the nearby Whitney Museum of American Art.
For the past decade or so, Merrily says, local galleries have been putting on museum-quality shows that warrant attention. When we visit the Jack Shainman Gallery, for instance, Cuban artist Yoan Capote has constructed a 2.4-metre high bust of Fidel Castro out of 3000 door hinges collected from his neighbours (after offering to replace their old ones with new ones), an impressive feat of engineering and socio-political commentary. Over in Larry Gagosian's gallery, Michael Heizer has somehow suspended a towering 18-tonne rock, excavated from the Mojave Desert, inside a 12-tonne steel frame. It seems impossible – and possibly dangerous – that something so heavy should float above ground. Even so, nearly every visitor is tempted to look under the monolith by sticking their head underneath.
Merrily says one of the things she loves most about the Chelsea gallery district is how often shows change. "Every five to six weeks, there'll be a new exhibition at each of the galleries," she says. "So even if you're kind of up on the scene, you won't be in six weeks." When Merrily's tour finishes, she recommends that we hoist ourselves upwards to walk the High Line, New York's now-famous and beloved two-kilometre stretch of abandoned rail-line. Now transformed into a floating walkway, lush with greenery, the High Line connects directly to the new Whitney Museum, which opened in May.
Sydney Morning Herald, Traveller Magazine. Benjamin Law, Oct 2015
"...Within minutes, the slight and serious art critic and writer had given me the backstory on the works that had most challenged me... ..Kerr expounded on the works in front of us without ever seeming forced or professorial... imagine an English-educated friend who happens to know a ton about contemporary art."
Kathleen Fifield, Senior Editor. Excerpt from Philadelphia Magazine article 'An Art Filled Weekend in New York'
"Culture Fix... New York’s contemporary art hub is in West Chelsea... Art critic Merrily Kerr of New York Art Tours leads excellent tours of the district."
Destination MO, Magazine for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Certificate of Excellence 2014. The only Art Gallery tour to win Trip Advisor's Certificate of Excellence for New York Attractions.
what clients have said
“Excellent art tour with Merrily of the Met”
Merrily gave my family and I a lovely tour of some great Dutch painting at the Met. We are heading to Holland in a few days with our children (ages 10 and 11) and Merrily did a lovely job 100% customizing a tour that helped us prepare for that trip. She was chalk full of info on the artists and even prepared (at our request) a little handout and quiz for the kids at the end.
Ken B, New York City, New York 2015
This was an excellent tour of several contemporary art galleries in the Chelsea area of NYC. A friend and I often visit the many museums in mid-Manhattan, but we have never ventured downtown to the many other galleries. Merrily Kerr was an outstanding guide... Merrily is extremely knowledgeable (see her credentials on her site), but she is also very personable, making it a joy to share the time and these art experiences. ...the cost is very reasonable. I would absolutely recommend her for any art tour you might be considering.
nbgramps Darien, Connecticut 2015
“Perfect Way to Spend a Rainy Day”
...had a great time. She's patient and thorough and senses when to interject and when to let people mosey around. We went to many galleries in the West Village area and saw a variety of artists. We're not much into touristy tour guides we we were glad to discover this was not that at all. Very casual, authentic and not pretentious. Highly recommend it.
Eric T. London UK 2015
Can't say enough great things about Merrily. Knew a ton about all of the art pieces we saw, was very flexible. Highly recommend!
Evan J 2015
"Veritable Pied Piper"
Another terrific day with you - thanks for the wonderful tour. You were the veritable Pied Piper with three 12 year olds, one 14 and one 15 year old. All enjoyed the day and were engaged for two hours .... Quite an achievement!! Look forward to our next tour.
Nicole Treasure, NY 2014
"Why we like to take the small tours"
...Most of all thanks for being so personable, you are a perfect example of why my wife and I like to take the small tours. We will always keep you in mind in the future.
Paul Mock, 2014
"Knowledge and enthusiasm showed"
We enjoyed so many aspects of the tour. First and foremost, it was a great size group, not too big. And the intros you gave at each gallery, often inclusive of additional artwork and insights on your iPad, really served us well. Your knowledge and enthusiasm showed, and made for a well rounded experience. So glad to have discovered your tours. I know Mark is planning an booking sometime soon, and we both intend to pass the word on to other friends. So thanks again for such an informative and enjoyable tour.
Julie Battisti, 2014
That was a great tour, and I hope to do it again. It was a wonderful, beautiful way to be able to have some understanding of so much that is happening right before our eyes. Thanks for sharing your own excitement with us.
Jeff Ellis, 2014
"Delightful couple of hours"
Thank you for a delightful couple of hours spent in the galleries with you. I loved all that you brought to the tour; your knowledge, insights and wonderful personality! I will most definitely be joining you on future tours when I can.
Billie Bailkin, Kennet Square, PA, 2013
"Cherish for years to come"
...thank you so much for your insight and guidance during our gallery tour! Your knowledge and generosity in sharing such amazing work and showing us around Chelsea is an experience we’ll all cherish for years to come. Thank you again for the energy and inspiration!
Rachel Rushing, Texas Woman’s University, student, Professional Practices Class, 2013
"The girls really enjoyed it"
...Thank you so much for sharing your enthusiasm and knowledge about the contemporary art scene with my class. The girls really enjoyed it and your comments made such a big difference for them.
Duane Neil, Art Dept Head, The Chapin School, 2011, 2013
…I just talked to my guest, and she was very impressed with you! I really appreciate your professional tour, and I look forward to having more business with you. I am so glad that my guest was happy!
Sohee Shin, Personal Assistant, The Setai Hotel, Fifth Avenue, 2012
"It inspired them"
…We had such a great afternoon with you and all of the girls had insight into the smaller gallery venue. I believe that for some, it inspired them to work hard and continue to be inspired to reach great heights in the future with their own work. I look forward to keeping updated on Facebook. See you next trip.
Cheryl Furlong, Art Department, Surbiton High School, Greater London, UK, 2012
"Art seems to be her calling and not her job"
…The 'Contemporary Art Gallery Walking Tours' class with Merrily Kerr was a wonderful experience. She is amazingly knowledgeable, enthusiastic and personable. Art seems to be her calling and not her job. I would definitely take a course with her again.
Jen, Cooper Union Continuing Education Student, 2012
"Now there is a lot more art that I enjoy"
…I'm someone who desperately wanted to understand and appreciate what others saw in contemporary art. It has always been confusing and out of reach, that was until Merrily took my wife and me on a walking tour of MoMa and a series of private art galleries in New York. As she explained the art and artists, things started to make sense. I gained an appreciation of the talent and skill of many artists I'd discounted. Not all modern art is to my taste, but now there is a lot more art that I enjoy.
Stephen Jackson, Australia, 2012
"variety and length is perfect!"
…We booked two tours with Merrily (Chelsea and Lower East Side) which were both one of our highlights in New York. With her profound knowledge, inside stories, enthusiasm and questions, she stirred our interest and those of our teenage and tween kids. Whether it was new media or an art direction we thought we knew something about, she fuelled our interest even more. The variety and length is perfect! Enjoyed it tremendously. Thank you, Merrily.
Claudine Weinstein, Netherlands, 2012
…Every semester I schedule a tour for my International Baccalaureate Art class. Ms. Kerr always chooses a range of artists for the tour, from those up and coming to real heavy hitters. She never fails to enlighten us with her in-depth knowledge, even regarding artists I thought I knew a lot about. My students look forward to the tour and are always inspired in ways that inform their work for the rest of the year. I highly recommend her tours to anyone interested in art. They are a transformative experience.
Emily Smith, Curtis High School, 2012
"Accessible & approachable"
…Merrily makes the NYC contemporary art scene accessible and approachable. She prepares thoroughly for each tour and achieves the perfect blend of prepping you prior to entering the galleries and letting you go to explore them on your own. She's talented and entertaining and I highly recommend her gallery tours.
Jerry Silverstein, Songwriter, NYC 2012
"Would recommend her to my friends"
…The art world in New York is so rich and vast that in order to sort through all the gallery offerings, a knowledgeable guide is needed to sift through it all. Merrily Kerr is that person. She guides you through the selected galleries offering background and insight without imposing her critique. There are no formal lectures in the galleries. She makes herself available for questions and is interested in your impression of the art work. I plan on attending another session and would recommend her to my friends.
Janet O'Hare, Long Island, 2012
...Thank you very much for making the tours a success despite the severe weather on both tour dates. The tours were indeed very popular with the conference attendees and added to the diversity of the content of the conference. It was a pleasure to work with you.
Paul Skiff, Asst. Director for Annual Conference College Art Association 2007
"Crash course in the NY art scene"
...My tour with Merrily gave me a crash course in the New York art scene. I couldn't have comprehended nearly so much if I'd taken twice as much time on my own... ...I would recommend her services to anyone wanting to get a great overview of the contemporary New York art industry.
Terry Olson Director Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs 2006
"One of the highlights of the semester!"
...Merrily Kerr introduced my freshman new media students to Chelsea galleries, giving them an insider's view of the artwork.... Her tour was one of the highlights of the semester!.... Merrily was personable, taking the time to answer questions and providing information about the artists based on her own experience and knowledge of the New York art scene.... She based the tour around my class's needs, picking out specific sound and video installations that provided them with inspiration and history for the class.
Cheryl Yun Edwards, Assoc. Professor, Parsons, The New School for Design 2006
"Authentic, hip New York gift"
...I highly recommend- I hired Merrily as a birthday present to my sister- an authentic, hip New York gift! She provided us with the "insider's" point of view while sprinkling in juicy details and fun stories. The two-hour tour was the perfect length and it made the Chelsea galleries accessible and easy to navigate (I don't think I would have found half of them on my own!)
Kate Norris New York City 2006