Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating tour of the last five decades of contemporary art in New York City, showing how artists are catalysts of gentrification and how neighborhoods in turn shape their art--with special insights into the work of artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, and Jeff Koons
Stories of New York City's fabled art scene conjure up artists' lofts in SoHo, studios in Brooklyn, and block after block of galleries in Chelsea. But today, no artist can afford a SoHo loft, Brooklyn has long gentrified, and even the galleries of Chelsea are beginning to move on. Art on the Block takes the reader on a journey through the neighborhoods that shape, and are shaped by, New York's ever-evolving art world. Based on interviews with over 150 gallery directors, as well as the artists themselves, art historian and cultural commentator Ann Fensterstock explores the genesis, expansion, maturation and ultimate restless migration of the New York art world from one initially undiscovered neighborhood to the next.
Opening with the colonization of the desolate South Houston Industrial District in the late 1960s, the book follows the art worlds subsequent elopements to the East Village in the ‘80s, Brooklyn in the mid-90s, Chelsea at the beginning of the new millennium and, most recently, to the Lower East Side. With a look to the newest neighborhoods that artists are just now beginning to occupy, this is a must-read for both art enthusiasts as well as anyone with a passion for New York City.
"New York is indisputably a city of neighborhoods and art historian and collector Fensterstock's mission in this lively and expansive cultural history is to reveal the impact of shifting real-estate markets, economic cycles, political movements, art-world producers, and consumers on contemporary art's evolution. Rejecting any one explanation for the art world's geographical, commercial, and aesthetic restlessness, Fensterstock instead presents 'variables' to consider as she adeptly guides readers through the decades, from the decline of late-1960s Midtown modernism to 2010's Lower East Side revival. Structured chronologically and by neighborhood, the book weaves a lucid narrative of how rising real-estate costs in the early 1970s made edgy Soho galleries cautious and increasingly commercial, prompting young artists attuned to punk and new wave to embrace the East Village scene, which remained influential until the late 1980s, when Chelsea and Williamsburg replaced it as epicenters of the art world in the 1990s and 2000s. Fensterstock concludes by arguing that the one constant here is change. Based on more than 150 interviews with artists and gallery directors, as well as news and criticism in popular art publications, the book is a highly readable introduction to the New York art world. 24 pages of color inserts. Agent: William Clark, W.M. Clark Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Art on the Block follows an adventurous migration of artists and their galleries from one lower Manhattan neighborhood to another and across the East River to Brooklyn, one step behind drug dealers and the police and one step ahead of lifestyle magazines and real estate developers. Fensterstock shows how gallery owners promote art--and themselves--and in the process, help to make the neighborhoods they inhabit more popular and desirable. But these changes ultimately make areas more expensive, killing the creative process.”--Sharon Zukin, author, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places
“Ann Fensterstocks diligently researched Art on the Block is a must-read for anyone involved or even marginally interested in the New York art world." —Whitehot Magazine
“Neighborhood loyalties, artists sense of community, political and legal considerations, gentrification, and the broader social, civic and economic milieu all play a part." —Kirkus Reviews
“A highly readable introduction to the New York art world." — Publishers Weekly
“Art on the Block follows an adventurous migration of artists and their galleries from one lower Manhattan neighborhood to another and across the East River to Brooklyn, one step behind drug dealers and the police and one step ahead of lifestyle magazines and real estate developers. Fensterstock shows how gallery owners promote art--and themselves--and in the process, help to make the neighborhoods they inhabit more popular and desirable. But these changes ultimately make areas more expensive, killing the creative process.”—Sharon Zukin, author, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places
"Ann Fensterstock has packed her up-to-the minute text with interesting art world facts, from mini-profiles of pioneering gallerists to the current burgeoning Bushwick scene. A comprehensive New York art-scene primer that will also appeal to cognoscenti." —Phoebe Hoban, author of Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art
"Significant art history in the making. Tracking the energy of New York's contemporary art world that may flag but never vanishes, the book provides an impressive windshield tour through more than half a century of the artists, dealers, entrepreneurs and real estate challenges of the contemporary art world." — Alexandra Anderson Spivy, writer, critic and former editor in chief of Art & Antiques
An informative tour of the last four decades of contemporary art in New York City, showing how artists were the unwitting footsoldiers of gentrification and how neighbhorhoods in turn shaped their art—with special attention to artists such as Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, and Jeff Koons
American cities entered a new phase when, beginning in the 1950s, artists and developers looked upon a decaying industrial zone in Lower Manhattan and saw, not blight, but opportunity: cheap rents, lax regulation, and wide open spaces. Thus, SoHo was born. From 1960 to 1980, residents transformed the industrial neighborhood into an artist district, creating the conditions under which it evolved into an upper-income, gentrified area. Introducing the ideaandmdash;still potent in city planning todayandmdash;that art could be harnessed to drive municipal prosperity, SoHo was the forerunner of gentrified districts in cities nationwide, spawning the notion of the creative class.
In The Lofts of SoHo, Aaron Shkuda studies the transition of the district from industrial space to artistsandrsquo; enclave to affluent residential area, focusing on the legacy of urban renewal in and around SoHo and the growth of artist-led redevelopment. Shkuda explores conflicts between residents and property owners and analyzes the cityandrsquo;s embrace of the once-illegal loft conversion as an urban development strategy. As Shkuda explains, artists eventually lost control of SoHoandrsquo;s development, but over several decades they nonetheless forced scholars, policymakers, and the general public to take them seriously as critical actors in the twentieth-century American city.
About the Author
Ann Fensterstock is an art historian and a collector who serves on boards and committees at several museums and nonprofits in New York City and Washington. She speaks regularly on contemporary art and lives in New York City.