‘A Nihilistic and Vapid Form of Art Never Seen in the Big Apple’


That is what Brooklyn activist Samuel E. Anderson sees resulting from the subway-driven gentrification The Observer explored on Friday. It was a widely debated story, with a number of commenters pointing out that Bushwick really isn’t that far from Manhattan, so there is no reason to assume the (over) development will not be just as swift and brutal as before.

There was a lot of  talk about money and power and access, both to capital and transportation. But what they all ignored, excepting Mr. Anderson, who sent us an email, was not just the minorities but the minority artists affected by these changes. This is not exactly new territory, but it is well said—including our emphases—and it speaks to a dark future for minority communities, affordable housing and the art scene as a (w)hole.

I’m glad you have discovered and publicized this migratory pattern of mainly white artists in New York City. Many of us Blackfolk understood this from the very ground in which we live.

White artists are the vanguard of gentrification in NYC and many major urban centers throughout the U.S. But, what is currently happening in NYC is that young relatively poor white artists have fewer and fewer places to migrate to. Hence, they are now moving further away from the centers of bourgeois art galleries. Moving to places like East New York, Bed-Stuy, Red Hook, and the South Bronx.

Gentrification still follows them, though. They make the neighborhood “safe” for the less adventurous petty bourgeois. This means that NYC’s vulture real estate moguls push the elected officials to lay the political red carpet for their “neighborhood improvement.” Our artist residents then get pushed out because of the gentrifiers and real estate speculation.

All this means that Black & Latino families are pushed further to the edges of the city… or completely out of the city to other states or distant counties. Inside of this, most Black and Latino artists are also a forced to move… rendering the NYC art scene in the early part of the 21st Century more segregated that the NYC art scene of the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.

This reality, in turn, means that the quality of art being produced in NYC is deteriorating into a nihilistic and vapid form of art never seen in the Big Apple.

I think you should look into this phenomena… and alert your readership to this tragedy.

An East New York art scene? Surprising, and yet not.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

‘A Nihilistic and Vapid Form of Art Never Seen in the Big Apple’