"The Real Estate Show Was Then: 1980"

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"The Real Estate Show Was Then: 1980"

Though we think of it as a contemporary phenomenon, gentrification first became an issue in New York during the 1970s, as baby boomers poured back into the city abandoned by postwar flight to the suburbs. Artists led the way, but after initial waves colonized largely empty, former industrial areas such as Soho and Tribeca, newcomers were forced to push their way into the East Village and Lower East Side—neighborhoods with poor minority communities. Young artists with little money mostly identified with the people they were displacing, especially as affordable studio and exhibition spaces became beyond their reach. An artist-activist group known as Collaborative Projects, or Colab (which included such future stars as Jenny Holzer), addressed the problem with a guerrilla action: It broke into a padlocked, city-owned building with the aim of mounting an exhibition called "The Real Estate Show." They were in the space for a week between Christmas 1979 and Jan 2, 1980, before city authorities forced them out. Now, 34 years later, in a drastically transformed Lower East Side, "The Real Estate Show" is being revisited—suggesting, perhaps, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.  


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