Chelsea Art: the New Thirty-something Block Party

Donna Clovis asked:

Young artists, plus young collec­tors, plus newly established gal­leries and the love of art equal the cultural phenomenon sweep­ing the Chelsea art district, as thirty-something art enthusiasts flock to galleries. Has the art world spawned a new generation of young, hip, savvy art aficiona­dos who are destined to become tomorrow’s well informed art col­lectors?


The Chelsea art community is boasting of the new involvement with the thirty-some­thing crowd. Texting your friends about the newest opening and exhibition is easy. With new artists and emerging galleries experimenting with various concepts and ideas, the diversity of Chelsea has now ca­tered to this new audience and market giv­ing new energy and vitality to art spaces for creativity.


Melissa Sarti, a 32-year-old graduate student from Hunter College stands on the corner of West 25th and 10th Ave. messaging a friend about an art exhibition this Thursday night. “Hey Carl, meet me at 6:30 at White Box,” she wrote. “There’s an awesome installation I want to see and some friends I want you to meet.”


The Chelsea corner where she stands seems to be a remote one with a taxi stand, a gas station and a crumbling warehouse just below an old, elevated railroad line. But she stands on the edge of the Chel­sea art world, the largest museum-like space of contemporary art in the world. The sidewalk crowd builds as she walks toward the gallery spaces. She passes a large glass gallery window and moves closer to get a better glimpse of the huge space within an old brick factory. Melissa peers through the window. She sees them, clutching glasses of champagne and wine, as the crowd of young guests inside mar­vel at a new contemporary painting.


From Manhattan to Queens, the young trendsetters are coming out in droves, and not just for the wine. Last month at a re­ception at Agora Gallery Mary Ellen Hen­derson and Daniel frequent the gallery. “I like to know what’s going on in the galleries in the neighbor­hood. It’s kind of like for business and pleasure” answers Christina Freeman, a photographer, when asked why she made a point to come to the reception. “We’re artists by nature; some of us are fashion designers, so we have an interest in art. We can truly appreciate it”.


Erin Walker and Bren frequent the galler­ies on a regular basis, so what keeps them coming back? “It’s a good chance for us to catch up with each other, and also look for inspiration”. However, The Chelsea galleries are not just for those looking to enhance their knowledge of up-and-com­ing design trends in the contemporary art world. “I like to be able to come out on the weekends, and be able to go from gallery to gallery to gallery. Make an afternoon of it and go to brunch. Get a group of friends together to do something more interesting and define my own taste in art”, offered Jennifer Grace, a publishing assistant from Wired Magazine.


New Gangs of Gallerists


Sheri Pasquarella, a young art consultant and private dealer, invested in a 27th Street space that once held the Tunnel nightclub until 2001. Several young art gallerists moved their businesses from other parts of the city to a series of old loading docks along the south side of the former Tunnel site. Wanting to create an instant destina­tion location, Pasquarella led the exodus of emerging-artist dealers to a promised land of barren street-level spaces between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. Oliver Kamm Gallery, Foxy Production, Derek Eller Gallery, Clementine Gallery, John Connelly Pres­ents and Wallspace are now located here. This has added up to be just one of the most concerted efforts at expand­ing Chelsea’s gallery scene since the art world began abandoning SoHo for the West Side in the mid-1990s.


New Art Networks


Social networks for thirty-somethings in the arts is on the upswing. The Young As­sociates is one of the new social art groups started in Chelsea by a museum space. The Chelsea Art Museum program looks to connect young people with New York’s emerging art com­munity, creating an energet­ic presence in the growth of the museum and a network of innovative thinkers within the arts. The group targets recent graduates and young professionals who would like to learn more about art in an intimate atmosphere that can be pro­vided by a smaller museum. They interact with museum curators, meet artists from New York and create a forum within the framework of the Chelsea Art Museum for networking with other young people in the field. They organize special after par­ties following exhibition openings, cura­tor-led art tours, gallery tours, talks with gallery owners, artist studio visits, invita­tional talks on trends in contemporary art, previews of auctions, and holiday parties.


Innovative Investors


Get out your auction paddles. A new generation of collectors, hedge-fund managers, technology entrepreneurs and others in their thirties have plunged into the world of contemporary art. During recent years, as world economies waned, prices in the closely watched top 2% of the contemporary-art market were up to 72%, according to London-based Art Mar­ket Research. In contrast, prices of top-tier works in the Old Masters and French Im­pressionist markets fell by 40% and 29%. Christopher Apgar, a young financial adviser, owns works ranging from Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti artist who became an eighties phenomenon, to a silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol. His current hunt is for artistic creations by Gregory Crewdson, a photog­rapher whose work includes promotional shots for the HBO series “Six Feet Under,” and Vic Muniz, known for making sculp­tures of iconic figures out of chocolate and then photographing the pieces.


Most young and new collectors have little interest in the Old Masters that capti­vated the previous generation. Part of the reason for the aversion is the astronomi­cal prices they command. Contemporary works are less expensive and are more likely to double in value in a short peri­od. And today, a young collector doesn’t need to spend millions of dollars on a van Gogh to earn the respect of peers. They show they are in touch with the contempo­rary art world by buying up works of new contemporary artists and appearing in the gallery social scene.


And while new collectors may be ap­proaching the art market as if it were a marketing venture of capital investments, there is no guarantee that the payoff will be as lofty. The art market can be volatile. The collecting quirks and interests of con­temporary art lovers drive the market. If a few collectors love ocean scenes, prices rise while less favored desert paintings re­main bargains. Fluctuations can differ due to different collectors entering and leaving the art market at various times. The result is an artist may be “hot” for a few years and when prices plateau and rise again, another collecting generation seizes the artists’s worth. The art industry urges young people to buy for eprsonal enjoyment and not just a quick profit. The lifestyle of today’s new collectors is not about ball gowns and expensive jewelry. It is all about walking around your home in sweat pants talking with a friend on the cell phone about the contem­porary art plastered on the walls that you look at and appreciate. It is about comput­ers, blackberry’s, ipods, and ibooks. Most of all, it is about texting your friends for the next social gathering at a Chelsea art gallery opening on Thursday evening.


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