art,  lower east side,  whelan

NY Art Scene: East Village to LES: from Makeshift to Fine Art Gallery

The emerging East Village art scene of the 1980s invented new forms of cultural and economic linkages between the avant garde and urban space. For many the East Village art scene was “about making an ‘art movement’ seem more real by anchoring it to a concrete physical area.” The first galleries were makeshift exhibition spaces started by artists or their friends in apartments and eventually in storefronts. This rapid growth and decline may be accounted for by the international wave of art speculation and investment that was fueled largely by the profits from the finance and producer services growth sector.

The increasing national and international media spotlight on East Village subculture presented the public with new ways of perceiving the landscape of dilapidated tenements and trash-littered sidewalks and streets. While the images and symbols of urban decay remained the same, their representations and attached meanings shifted from fear and repulsion to curiosity and desire. Real estate developers were quick to capitalize on the interest in the cultural scene, issuing in an arts-driven phase of redevelopment. However, as prices rocketed the art scene shifted to the Lower East Side and today we even see galleries such as Fine Art on 45 Orchard Street opening in March 2009, signifying that the area is one of the key locations in the New York art scene.

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