Welcome to Art Market Boom 2.0

The economy continues to tank, but money flows in art land.

Of course, not all young dealers move to the L.E.S. The award for the most exotic move of the year goes to the energetic Parisian gallerists Daniele Balice and Alexander Hertling, who have linked up with critic David Lewis to start a small project space in a Hell’s Kitchen office building. “Some people may not think it is a very sophisticated place, but it feels real,” Mr. Balice told The Observer earlier this year, speaking warmly of the neighborhood’s cheap bars and restaurants. He added, “I may be wrong.”

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Many nonprofit galleries have been taking admirable curatorial risks.

For the past year, at the Artist’s Institute, down on Eldridge Street, curator Anthony Huberman has been shaping freewheeling idiosyncratic programs based on the work of a single artist each semester with help from his students at Hunter College, which backs the venture. It has held lectures, organized an orchid sale, hosted performances and baked bread. Somehow, it’s made sense. Through December, its focus is on the septuagenarian Native American artist Jimmie Durham, a critical favorite who hasn’t shown in New York recently.

In Soho, Recess Activities has been handing over its space to emerging artists since it opened in 2009, and letting them organize shows, make work and host events while in residence. The results have been unpredictable and messy and exciting (which can’t typically be said of most Chelsea galleries), and it recently added a Red Hook location.

And there are new appointments to watch. With new director Stefan Kalmár at its helm, Artists Space has had a streak of smart solo shows, and a survey of the work of the little-known renegade New York interventionist Christopher D’Arcangelo is up next. Former Artforum czar Tim Griffin has just taken the reins of the Kitchen, and onetime Creative Time curator Peter Eleey has started as chief curator at MoMA PS1.


Across the city, from the Upper East Side’s Alex Zachary and the aforementioned Essex Street to the West Village’s Algus Greenspon and the Ridgewood, Queens, space Regina Rex, galleries are hosting exhibitions of older artists that the New York market had previously ignored—or loved once and dropped.

A segment of the 1980s East Village scene is enjoying a surprising resurrection this season, with a few artists from the Neo-Geo movement making appearances in unexpected places. Sculptor Haim Steinbach is showing with Chelsea powerhouse Tanya Bonakdar, and Meyer Vaisman, a reclusive figure of late, will have a show out in Williamsburg, at an artist-run gallery called Soloway. It will be Mr. Vaisman’s first show in New York since 2000.

“I studied Meyer’s work in school,” said Soloway’s Munro Galloway. “The way he uses found imagery and digital manipulation in his work has resonance with what is happening now.” Mr. Vaisman’s experience running the storied International With Monument gallery in the 1980s—the former home of Jeff Koons, a onetime Neo-Geo star—is also an inspiration, Mr. Galloway said. Artist-run spaces like International are opening at a breathtaking rate in Bushwick, but it still feels too early to hazard a guess of what will happen there.


With so much money flowing into the art world today, it should be a time of diverse and far-reaching experiments and innovations, and alternative spaces should be vigorously expanding. Instead, that money appears to be flowing into the same few hands, supporting the same well-known names. Collectors are building private museums as nonprofits announce layoffs.

The price of the cheapest sculpture in Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s recent show at Gagosian London was $1.8 million, a sum that would cover the operating expenses of a New York nonprofit like White Columns or SculptureCenter for two years—or buy, en masse, a dozen shows on the Lower East Side, giving enterprising dealers some breathing room.

If some economists prove right, a double dip recession looms. Big-ticket items by established names selling smoothly could just be one more indication that investors want somewhere to park their money other than the wobbly stock market. If the economy worsens, the effects could be painful for many. For now, though, the art world feels strangely insulated from that broader turmoil. In other words, Boom 2.0 is in full swing.


Welcome to Art Market Boom 2.0