art news & reviews & Interviews. jeff bergman, editor

66th – The Cost of Being an Artist

1958: L-R Delphine Seyrig, Robert Indiana, Duncan Youngerman, Ellsworth Kelly, Jack Youngerman and Agnes Martin on roof of No. 1-3 Coenties Slip

1958: L-R Delphine Seyrig, Robert Indiana, Duncan Youngerman, Ellsworth Kelly, Jack Youngerman and Agnes Martin on roof of No. 1-3 Coenties Slip

The cost of being an artist in New York has been written about a great deal lately.  Holland Cotter spent many column inches in the Times this past weekend decrying the state of the current gallery system, the lack of diversity among the museumerati and the lack of real estate options for artists.  On the same day, a piece (also in the NY Times) discussed the transformation and increased cost to artists and small business in the imposing and ugly Industry City (section of Brooklyn).  Ben Davis asks “Are Artists to Blame for Gentrification?” on Slate.  For him, the short answer is no.  Three months ago a piece by David Byrne, commissioned by Creative Time and published in the Guardian also lamented the New York of yesteryear (1978) but makes great points about the culture of this city.  Byrne Says “Can New York change its trajectory a little bit, become more inclusive and financially egalitarian? Is that possible? I think it is. It’s still the most stimulating and exciting place in the world to live and work, but it’s in danger of walking away from its greatest strengths. The physical improvements are happening—though much of the crumbling public infrastructure still needs fixing. If the social and economic situation can be addressed, we’re halfway there. It really could be a model of how to make a large, economically sustainable and creatively energetic city. I want to live in THAT city”

As rents for anything in NYC skyrocket, the ability for an artist to work in the city without independent wealth or full time work is approaching nil.  There still remains parts of the city in which illegal loft spaces and unheated studios remain an option.   Still, even those undesirable situations disappear quickly.  Obviously there are more obstacles than money, but I give it critical emphasis.  Opportunity, whether self made or state supported, must exist for artists to show work and live among a community of artists.  If those communities are leveraged and destroyed before they can form, that will never happen.  Let’s hope that the city’s new administration will assist the slow burn of change rather than the wholesale scrape and spray of Guiliani’s and Bloomberg’s NYC.

My personal goal is to help artists find a way to show their work, regardless of venue or commercial value.   I have barely scratched the surface, but so many resources are available.  Here is a list of useful links and organizations: Artist Resources at Atlas – NYC & Beyond.   

-Jeff Bergman

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