Art dealer Casey Kaplan firmly believes that galleries are more than just shops. As the initiator of New York Gallery Week, Kaplan said at last night's press preview for the second annual event, "Galleries offer tons of incredible exhibitions free of charge. We want to motivate the public to participate in the gallery scene, and there are many ways to do so that aren't just commercial." The premise is similar to Gallery Weekend Berlin, but Kaplan also cites as inspiration the coordinated efforts of Midwestern art institutions like the Walker Art Center.

This year's NYGW, which runs from Friday, May 6, through Sunday, May 8, boasts the participation of 53 galleries and 11 not-for-profits, both numbers up slightly from 2010.

Kaplan told attendees that increased public involvement in the arts is a central goal of the initiative. He explained, "The organizers seek to encourage galleries to both present themselves at communities and also to foster communities of artists, dealers, curators and scholars." Just like last year, each participating gallery was asked to develop one or more events to enhance the exhibition they'll have on view during NYGW. Highlights include a walking tour of Chelsea with Whitney drawings curator Carter Foster, an artist's talk with Kim Beck about her work recently installed along the High Line, and a discussion of the Kara Walker show at Sikkema Jenkins (opening Apr. 22) led by New Yorker critic Hilton Als.

The NYGW planning committee—including, among others, Kaplan, David Zwirner, Friedrich Petzel, Marian Goodman and Andrew Kreps—made a few changes this time around. In addition to scaling back from four days to three (last year's long weekend included Monday), the organizers have pooled money from this year's gallery membership fees to fund a gift to the Whitney Museum. The donation is intended as a welcoming gesture for the museum's move downtown, with the stipulation that the museum use it for fellowships or research, not curatorial expenses or acquisitions. Galleries pay a yearly $2,500 membership fee in order to be listed as a participant in NYGW promotional materials, and the funds largely go toward operational expenses.

The other notable development for NYGW 2011 is a panel discussion coordinated by the committee members. At Gavin Brown's enterprise on Sunday, May 8, figures from university museums around the country, such as Sabine Eckmann, director of the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, and Claudia Gould, director of the Philadelphia ICA, will convene. One topic of conversation will be collaboration and sharing resources within the university art museum network. Describing the discussion's impetus, Kaplan cited Europe's kunsthalle system of local, noncollecting museums as a model for what American academic museums could ideally resemble in the future.

Navigating such an extensive list of gallery shows and events is already overwhelming in New York. Luckily, NYGW has the support of the  Exhibitionist this year, a website and iPhone app that plots venues on a map and includes exhibition information, images and brief reviews. Developed and operated by Kevin Conley, former longtime compiler of the New Yorker's "Goings On About Town" column, the app will include listings for New York Gallery Week happenings.



Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, giving a talk on the work of Mamma Andersson at David Zwirner during New York Gallery Week (May 6–8, 2010). Courtesy David Zwirner, New York and New York Gallery Week