Two thousand nine has been a rough year for New York City.
The economic hardship that has come down on the banking industry—and since then, on everyone else—will soon be peculiarly felt in the cultural sector, as much-relied-upon funding for big projects starts to dwindle.
But in a weird way, fall has always been a time of renewal in New York City, and the lifeblood of cultural production here has always been talent, not money.
Still, there are palpable changes in the cultural scene this year as artists, writers, performers and musicians adjust to the new reality. Some of them, far from being depressing, are almost exhilarating.
You’ll be reading a lot about places like (Le) Poisson Rouge, the little downstairs venue in Greenwich Village that is becoming increasingly indispensable as a home-away-from-home for New York’s and the world’s most accomplished artists in opera, classical music, jazz and … other things, harder to classify.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you’ll see smaller shows—a group of five Vermeers, a setting of valuable porcelain available together for the first time—that are no less impressive for being more intimate, less splashy productions than might have been the norm in a boom year. (Not that the Met will lack for big splashy shows.)
In music, you’ll see a return to old standards that should not have been forgotten so quickly, fueled in part by a music economy that is taking fewer chances; but resulting in an opportunity to hear the Pixies play their entire groundbreaking album, Doolittle, start to finish at the Hammerstein.
Standard-bearers are leading the way in publishing, too, with literary authors proven capable of moving units getting all the face-out placements at Barnes & Noble. But who, exactly, is complaining that this is the season that will give us new novels by Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem?
Theater is staging ambitious productions with top-rate actors—yes, in some cases, Hollywood actors—from Jude Law to James Spader. The dance scene is heating up, with a new generation of young dancers and choreographers eager to show the world that it doesn’t necessarily need another Balanchine, god though he was in his day.
In short, the city of ambition, which for some time has seemed to us a little asleep when it comes to serious cultural production, seems to be waking up a bit.
Don’t get us wrong: When this talent and these ambitions are paired with serious financial commitments, when things are looking up again, the city will be a better place.
But this fall, take a moment to see what raw talent and ambitious strategies bring us in the cultural sphere. It’s an impressive sight.