The art may vary in style and shock value, but the settings are essentially the same — spaces donated or leased for a song by building owners unable to rent or develop them.
As the recession drags on and storefronts across New York remain empty, commercial landlords are turning to an unlikely new class of tenants: artists, who in flusher times tend to get pushed out rather than lured in. And the price of entry is not deep pockets, but vivid imaginations and splashy exhibits — anything to lend the darkened buildings a sense of life.
On terms that are cut-rate and usually temporary — a few weeks or months — the artist gets a gallery or studio, and the landlord gets a vibrant attraction that may deter crime and draw the next wave of paying tenants.
“Any sort of activity is better than no activity,” said Jed Walentas, a Brooklyn developer whose company, Two Trees Management, routinely lends space in Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn for art projects. “As long as it’s short enough and it’s flexible, then there’s no real cost. So the question is who can you find that’s going to make an investment in a space with that level of uncertainty, and often it’s the artist.”
These “pop-up galleries,” as they are known in Britain, where the phenomenon is well established, are increasingly taking hold in New York as development advocates and landlords struggle to keep up appearances where commerce and construction have stalled.