Friday, September 14, 2018

Artwashing 14th and 8th

About a decade ago, I had a dream that the southeast corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue was being torn down to make room for WalMart. That didn't happen. At the time, I checked with one of the business owners (there was a popular Korean deli, a bodega, and a liquor store). He told me that the owner of the buildings had turned down offers of up to $45 million for the whole lot.

But then, last year, it all went.

We learned that a 10-story office tower is coming, designed by architect Gene Kaufman and developed by the Chun Woo Realty Corporation.

Chun Woo Realty Corp, DNA reported last year, "has owned the two properties for around three decades...noting that redevelopment was something they’d 'been contemplating for over a decade.'"

“We’re not developers who moved in and are pushing small businesses out. We’re actually the longtime permanent owners of the building, and it was actually our business,” the developer said of the deli. He didn't mention the other two businesses or any residents upstairs, or the impact this high-end office tower will have on the neighborhood.

In the meantime, until demolition, they're doing a little artwashing with Bombay Sapphire.

I walked by yesterday to find "Art in Progress" signs on the deli. Bombay Sapphire says, "Stir Creativity."

Security guards policed the installation of several canvases.

The booze corporation has a message for us:

"Creativity has no boundaries. It can flourish in art galleries, and it can thrive on the streets outside them. With Art in Progress, Bombay Sapphire is transforming the city's construction sites into open air art galleries to inspire New Yorkers' own creativity."

This is artwashing.

Defined by Feargus O'Sullivan, artwashing is a "profit-driven regeneration maneuver" in which "the work and presence of artists and creative workers is used to add a cursory sheen to a place's transformation.... It often happens...when developers spot areas that have attracted residents from creative industries, then earmark them as ripe for investment and remarketing to a new kind of customer."

Artwashing attracts hyper-gentrification and it is also public relations. And murky advertising. If you're looking at this and thinking it's an unmitigated good, well, they've got you right where they want you.

This is not spontaneous creativity. It's not bohemian aliveness in the Village. It's the spoonful of sugar that helps the poison go down.

This is a corporate-development collaboration that artists have agreed to participate in, though it would be better if they did a little more critical thinking about that participation.

It reminds me of when luxury neighbor, One Jackson Square, went up next door in 2007. The developers wrapped that site in billboards that capitalized on the creativity and bohemian history of the Village. "To this day," said the ad materials, "the birthplace of bohemian culture is still home to an eclectic mix of artists, iconoclasts and cognoscenti."

On the billboard, it read, "The Spirit of Greenwich Village Is Alive and Well."

Today, One Jackson Square is home to a Starbucks and a TD Bank.


Mitch said...

I am trying to think how one would slow down this sort of thing. The buildings involved aren't landmarks, and the deli owns the lot. Running a deli is pretty hard work - it's much easier to sell the asset and put something bigger on the land. It's not as if 10 story buildings are way out of character with the neighborhood.

Brian said...

Tipping points and critical mass. The neighborhood has one less candy store and Korean deli. $5 a cup coffee places sprout up. The $2 large coffee at the Korean deli with seating, gone. One Jackson Square then another similar One Jackson Square next door. The Associate grocery store loses its lease across 23rd Street. Your places are going.
Then perhaps a TD Bank and a Shake Shack, a Outback Steak House? Might as well make the move to Yonkers or White Plains.

Charleston Tell said...

The art on display looks like it includes some good stuff. And I trust that it's creators made some coin, and now have their work positioned in a spot where thousands of people see it every day. The wealthy have always subsidized the visual arts. Just about any artist you have ever heard of happily received money from rich individuals or institutions. Good intentions don't buy groceries, or paint.

Unknown said...

Yeah I am having flashbacks to Papas.... a restaurant where my parents had my First Communion Lunch at. Not long ago there was still part on a sign visible on 14th Street side of the building. The Village was a real neighborhood at one time.

DrBOP said...

It's not tagged yet?

TrashBrain said...

What a downer...I think at this point it's either disaster or mediocrity. Climate change-induced storms flooding the fuck out of nyc and/or a real economic crash is what it's going to take to make the suburban safety addicts flee the city. Then things might get interesting again.

meesalikeu said...

This one hits home as its my intersection and that was our deli. While I miss my deli, lets face it a moderately sized high end office building is a big step up for that corner and for the city as a whole. Its the same ownership, who btw everyone in the neighborhood liked, especially after they held out against the One Jackson Square offer, and the render its not even the typical horrible schlock for that cut rate hack architect Kaufman, its actually mediocre, which is a big step up for him. The corporate artwork is cynical, but tempoarary. Get used it because i read that apparantly the city wants much more on sidewalk scaffolding. I think the scaffolding art may be organized by nonprofits, but the point is get ready for much more distracting eyesore visuals everywhere you go. I guess a good thing is maybe people will actually look up from their phones ince in awhile.

meesalikeu said...

So after I ranted this morning and then going outside we notice all the corporate ‘artwork’ is now gone. I wonder if maybe someone complained to the owners? A Meatpacking nightclubber denizen had too many Bombay Sapphires & took it out on them? Wait, was it ever really there? Ha. Its a mystery.