Has the Lower East Side Become “Just Another Art District”?

Posted on: February 14th, 2013 at 6:20 am by

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Source: Bravo TV

It seems Gallerists are now quick to proclaim the Upper East Side as the new haven for avante-garde showrooms. Good; take ’em. While the Lower does boast some quality spots, there are way too many, and each new one adds little in the way of utility to the community at large. Yup, ye olde Law of diminshing returns.

The Observer published a lengthy piece earlier this week about this fluid cycle of gallery districts. How the UES was once the go-to spot, then SoHo, Chelsea, and the Lower East Side.

Here are a few choice excerpts:

In the arc of art-world history, the Upper East Side started out as the neighborhood with the most groundbreaking shows. Leo Castelli was up there showing Warhol, Rauschenberg and de Kooning. As the art world expanded, dealers moved to Soho, and then Chelsea. Uptown gained a reputation for stodginess.

It makes sense, then, that Bill Powers, owner of Half Gallery on Forsyth Street, who described the old gallery as being “in violation of the Geneva Conventions, it was so small,” is reopening this week in a townhouse on 78th Street. The old gallery was known for openings that spilled out into the street in order to accommodate everyone who showed up to drink mini-cans of beer (and, at one exhibition, have their picture taken with Terry Richardson). The new space will be open by appointment only.

Uptown now has some of the novelty that the Lower East Side had a few years ago. Fergus McCaffrey, who owns a gallery on 67th Street but recently decided to open a second space on West 26th Street in Chelsea, said he first opened uptown because it was “a way of distancing oneself from other galleries.”

People are opening spaces uptown that a few years ago might have been more likely on Orchard Street.

If the Lower East Side has a reputation as the main arbiter of the avant-garde, the dealer said, now that neighborhood “is an establishment in and of itself.” He said there are still interesting galleries there, but “the avant-garde now is about giving people what they want, wearing a $4,000 Prada suit, discovering that guy who’s going to make a ton of money at auction a year from now. Even the artists are market-driven. They see all their friends doing well, buying shit with all the money they make from dripping a little sweat on charcoal. So they end up wanting to take it to the source”—the Upper East Side, where the money is. “The avant-garde,” he said, “is about being with money.”

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