Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The New New York (Or, the Digital Center?)

In a conversation recently with another New York gallerist and a Berlin-based curator, the question of where the true center of the art world is now came up. When I suggested it might actually be Berlin, the curator simply smiled knowingly. Indeed, as the history of art shows us, no one city can dominate as capital forever, and with the rise of Asian nations, the current recession, and perhaps even a desire for a simple change of pace, many international art insiders are actively talking about New York's reign in the past tense.

This doesn't bother me, really. We're entering a phase of human history in which it's increasingly naive to think in terms of nation states, let alone city centers. Even the Wikipedia vs. the National Portrait Gallery comment thread illustrated that, as it became apparent that state-centric copyright laws are essentially useless in the digital age.

To achieve your goals today, in nearly any field, necessitates that your worldview be global. The art world is no different. US galleries are opening up branches in Beijing or Berlin. UK galleries are expanding into New York. Gagosian is soon opening a branch in Madagascar (just kidding...but don't bet against it). For even the small mom-and-pop shop type gallery, you really stand to lose out if you're not now considering an international roster or at the very least keeping up with what's happening on the global stage.

Fortunately (and just in time), one of the most impressive resources for finding who, what, when, and where in Chelsea, the art info portal with the staggeringly flexible information architecture, has gone global. Announcing One Art World, the expanded resource for the mind-boggling amount of information we're all trying to keep tabs on. Fortunately, it's brilliantly well organized and user friendly. From auction results and analysis to art fairs and biennials to books and games (including this online quiz Name the Artist) to directories for artists, galleries, people and more, this site is a marvel.

After surfing around the site a bit I began to wonder whether the "center" of the art world even needs to a be one physical location anymore. We still need to experience the art in person, of course, but there's always been two important factors in what made a location the "center of the art world." The fact that you could view the art there (and with the proliferation of international fairs and biennials, a physical center becomes less of a requirement) and the fact that you could find a high concentration of knowledgable people there. The speed of communication from anywhere to anywhere today makes travelling to one place for that less important today as well.

Not sure I know what a Digital Center of the art world might look like (I'm nobody's seer on such matters), but I am curious whether the notion of the New New York needing to be another captial city isn't as quaint now as visiting the academy exhibition during varnishing day.

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Blogger zipthwung said...

the center is wherever artists can live for cheap. i don't see artists in america being able to live and work in Berlin (even if rent is cheap), so for americans I don't think Berlin is the center of anything other than hype and trustafarian longing - a continuation of the adoration of youth. (where is it at bro?)

I do think Germany is influential, but not as influential as the US could be if collectors and artists as a whole got a spine and some vision.

Why are you making art that looks like art in this economy? THis is the only time your sincerity wont be called into question and conflated witht he market. Your vision wont be problematized by the reification of some "market" demon.

Art is not just a refferential game. Art need not be regional, but the regional refferences are what keep art alive for many people, even as they seem hermetic to outsiders - as it should be.

Traqnsnational art has a homogenizing influence but also a provincial style, which is weird.

Ok, let the games begin. On ebay.

7/29/2009 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I know a couple (welldoing) artists now living in Berlin and basically they live there because:

1) gigantic spaces for low cost prices.

2) lots of people in museums, people care about art there.

3) It's not yet a coded environment as much as other art capitals. Pretty loose and cool.

4) General quality of life (not an overcrowded nightmare).

5) They find they are more collectors there who are passionate and not just dumb investors.

(I think they might be fooling themselves about no. 5, though. You often see in auctions
Miss Princess Austria this selling their last bought works).

Cedric Casp

7/29/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

An artist I know recently back from Berlin said that walking through the Mitte felt like walking down Bedford in many New York artists there now.

7/29/2009 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Sánchez said...

i think one of the new art world centers is of course online; the artist or the galley website. there's lots of artwork that inspires me that i have yet to see in person - that i've only seen online. websites have done much more for my career than any brick and morter establishment. i don't have gallery representation but am cultivating interest/fans and selling all over,(canada, ireland, new zealand, brazil).

i think your points are valid on what makes an art world center:
The fact that you could view the art there (and with the proliferation of international fairs and biennials, a physical center becomes less of a requirement) and the fact that you could find a high concentration of knowledgable people there.

these are still vital to any art center but it may be becoming less important. i often wonder if i lived in another city would i be doing just as well. people say it's a boon to be able to say you're a nyc based artist, but i'm not sure anymore.

7/29/2009 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

websites have done much more for my career than any brick and morter establishment. i don't have gallery representation but am cultivating interest/fans and selling all over,(canada, ireland, new zealand, brazil).

This is similar to a point I made on the Studio Sales thread. Everything ties together. But at least in your case, Jennifer, I only heard of your name through a gallerist - in this case Jen Bekman at (and yes, I did buy one of your prints).

7/29/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Which city will supersede Berlin? And which one after that? How quickly will these changes happen and then happen again? Will artists have to adopt a nomadic lifestyle? How will that affect the physicality of their work? And what brand of luggage will be popular among artists?

7/29/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...

The truth is, I think in virtual space, I was walking 3 years ago in an international art fair and collecting conversations with gallery owners, many of the galleries existing only online, they're from all over.
One lady told me her physical space was closed due to high rent
(nothing new here) but she realized
that she was doing well online, among collectors. Once a year, renting a place to make a social event with her artists and buyers.
In art there's a lot of bullshitism , but I believe many of those I spoke to were honest.
So I believe the real art space is virtual.
I've had a lot of hits in my blogspot.
As an artist we can find: buyers,collectors, sympathizers, critique and everything in between.
The big thing, no doubt, is being in one real gallery licked by the masses like postage stamps, being know all over the place. Precious few are caught in the big net of celebrity oblivion.

I've been loving your latest posts.
So sorry that I haven't been able to give more feedbacks.


7/29/2009 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Oh wow. Talk about plugging: yes your art looks good, Jennifer! At least from the internet.

It ressembles an artist of the month Edward recently plugged, but I'll be damned if it's the same person. No, the other person was more oriental and you're more carnavalesque.

We should have an exhibit named "Intricacies" and have these two artists and others joined together.

Cedric Casp

7/29/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Sánchez said...

in response to larry...thanks.
and yes jen bekman is an AMAZING gallerist and a seriously savvy online marketing maven. she successfuly holds court in both worlds. where is she in this conversation?! i hope she joins and can give us some more insight.

7/29/2009 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that artists will always navigate toward a so-called center because they seek community and want to be in the location that offers the greatest opportunity for making their work visible.

Don't forget the arts culture in New York:
The Met, MOMA, The Guggenheim, The Whitney, The New Muuseum, the auction houses, Broadway, The Lincoln Center etc, etc

With regard to the shows that move through New York, the writing that takes place in New York and the strength of the artists being shown in New York. I don't think anywhere comes close.

If it were possible for me to be anywhere in the art world, New York is still the only place that I would choose.

Nowhere on earth is as concentrated in the arts as NYC.

The internet is the information art world, but New York remains to be the heart of the physical art world.


7/29/2009 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous david carson said...

edward - i left a comment earlier - don't know if it got through, or perhaps you decided to not post it, but just in case - here it is again...

i really think you're on to something, Edward. It obviously doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the last 15 years has changed how people gather and communicate. Like minded people are connected exponentially through all kinds of social links (friends of friends of friends can now discover your tribe and join) and art world types are seeing the benefits. If you are displaced geographically, you can be found digitally. Jennifer's comment above is a living testament to that. Younger artists don't even have to think twice about this. They're already exhibiting their work this way - as well as curating (witness as a great example)

a program without a permanent physical gallery is very possible. You see the beginnings of this already with sites like 20x200. Merge that idea into a collective of localized markets and spaces similar to Rojo and i think you have something interesting - at least to start.

7/29/2009 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

edward - i left a comment earlier - don't know if it got through, or perhaps you decided to not post it, but just in case - here it is again...

I didn't receive it...must have been gobbled up by the insatiable Internets.

7/29/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious about Berlin. What is it exactly that makes this such a hot spot for art? What sort of galleries and museums do they have? I'm not questioning the assertion that Berlin is a viable art center, I'm just extremely ignorant with regard to what it offers.


7/29/2009 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Are we talking market here? Dressing up like a clown doesn't make you an artist. I know more artists who moved to SF and LA than Berlin. Show me some figures, or I'll bury you in anecdotal evidence.

If there are 20,000 Americans living in Berlin (for the sake of argument) lets assume 2,000 of them are artists.

residencies might account for some but how are 2,000 expats earning their keep? or are they living there six months at a time? For how much longer?

In Williamsburg (but not Bushwick) there are fewer and fewer artists, and more and more media types - web video and print as well as programmers. These of course are "yuppies" or "hipsters" - so it seems like maybe the people in Berlin described as artists might be more "new" media types.

I do know new media art is strong in Europe - well funded and technically ambitious as well as being backed by theory heads.

But as we saw in 2001, much of that was hype - organizations and galleries like Rhizome Bitforms, and Eyebeam still have a fairly low profile/profit model compared to more traditional art mediums.

But maybe hi rez streaming internet flat panel TV is fundamentally changing the audience.

7/29/2009 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

If you live in Berlin are you still an American artist? The center is where the most disposable capital is.

7/29/2009 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger minimum said...

Does this mean you can make it and not live in New York or LA?

7/29/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

++Don't forget the arts culture in ++New York:

Give credit to this about Europa: lots of close large cities, great travel system (trains to almost every remote city), lots of museums, importance and popularity of "high" culture.

Also lately I've seen shows in New York with the mention "sorry this work couldn't travel here". The european versions have less misses.
There is more travelling in Europe but it's cozy and rewarding. New York is concentrated but crammed.
Ah well I'm there comparing a city with a whole continent, so I guess you have a point, but don't underestimate the proximity of a collection of major art events and an history of art that precedes modern art.

Cedric Casp

7/29/2009 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

+++Does this mean you can make it ++++and not live in New York or LA?

Ohhh yes. You still show in New York but now that's your second gallery.

Cedric C

7/29/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Zippy, blue chip level artists are moving to Berlin. Artists who need large spaces because they do large works.

Media artists often work in their bedrooms (and I think Koln, Wien,
Rotterdam have more of the cliché spots you refer to, but don't hit
too hard on Rhiz, Eyeb, and Bits, I think they're doing a wonderful
job. ;-)...).


7/29/2009 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Berlin is an avant-garde locale. It's a Paris of the turn of the century and a 50's era New York. The Berlin art scene is still coming together in a lot of ways.

New York is pretty much: what you see is what you get, but in Berlin I think there is a bit of a more adventuresome emerging scene, without a set identity.

New York is far from watered down, but it is heading that way. It's more of a store-front marketscape, nothing too avant-garde about that.

Berlin's energy is what makes it appealing to artists on the cutting edge.

If I could speak German better, I would be there tomorrow.


7/29/2009 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

Would Chicago be a viable option for an artist?

7/29/2009 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous david carson said...

damn those insatiable internets! thanks, Edward.

7/29/2009 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avant-Garde eh?
Is that essentially what good art amounts to anymore?

Personally, I think Berlin is a schizophrenic, self-indulgent, clusterf***k...sounds like a perfect center for the art world.

I think its time for the art world to take a long hard look at itself and pull its head out if its a**. We need some critical guidance, where are all the great savagely out-spoken minds... we don't need Greenberg and Rosenberg again, but we need someone like them.
(I'm not talkin' Danto and Kuspit)

Speak up you spinelsee bastards!

Revolutionistic F**ck!!!

7/29/2009 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Yes, I did a search and apparently there are some articles on artists moving to Berlin I haven't read - most of it PR hype. Still berlin seems like a cool place to go, I know I might if I was a blue chip artist, at least for a while.

But plenty of blue chip artisss move to the tropics as well, so until I see a statistical analysis, I'm standing by the idea that Berlin is hype, just like NY, just like LA. Chicago should be hyped more. There is plenty of money in Houston, and it's cheaper right?
oh but they are conservative.

7/29/2009 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley Hankey said...


Thanks for your thought provoking post. I think that, in a time when young people consider themselves citizens of the world, the "center" of the art world is becoming increasingly blurred. Everything happens online, and a lot of the great art I view happens online, but it is still different than seeing art in person. I recently moved to Los Angeles from Boston, and I am amazed at the sheer number of artists and galleries in the area, and I have only explored the tip of the iceberg here. I don't know that Los Angeles is a center of the art world, however. It feels more like the center of "this" art world. Perhaps as we move toward globalization and everything moves online, there will not be one center, but rather a series of centers, where artists work and live on a day-to-day basis, while living in the global context that is modern society.

7/29/2009 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay, so what type of visa are these ny artists getting? are we only talking about artists who are able to live there without day-jobs because they are to able to survive off the sale of work in ny?

7/29/2009 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

The anecdotal evidence I've collected on Berlin (from artists, German and otherwise) is that it's good for studios but gallery-wise it's still pretty weak. Artists happily look to launch in London or the US (East or West Coast, not necessarily NYC or LA) but base themselves there for the lifestyle/support.

The Germans are good at marketing though, even if unobstrusively.

I could dig it except for the winters.

7/30/2009 03:14:00 AM  

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