In New York, gallery districts come and go, moving from one part of town to the next, usually for the same reason: Rising rents. The formula is as simple as it is inexorable: Art attracts people with money and that in turn makes everything more expensive. In the 1980s, for instance, there was lively concentration of cutting-edge spaces run by young dealers in the East Village. It lasted for about eight years before gentrification sent them packing. Some of the more successful of them moved to Soho, which had been a destination for art lovers since the late 1960s.
By the mid-1990s, however, high-end stores like Prada and chains like Pottery Barn and Armani AX pushed the cost of commercial square footage into the stratosphere, sparking a migration of Soho galleries to the wilds of western Chelsea underneath the old elevated freight tracks running along Tenth Avenue. Today, we know them as the High Line, and it has become a magnet for both tourists and luxury residential development. Not surprisingly, the same economic cycle that emptied the Soho and East Village gallery scenes is starting to repeat itself as Chelsea dealers decamp for Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
But one of the same real estate developers responsible for this exodus wants to reverse it before it goes too far. Related Companies, the outfit behind the flamboyantly curvaceous condo designed by Zaha Hadid, is planning to open 15 new gallery spaces under the High Line between 27th and 28th streets, including one in the Hadid building. Designed by Markus Dochantschi of studioMDA, the plans include a galleria called High Line Nine as well as several stand-alone spaces. Besides art, High Line Nine will offer visitors a cafe and wine bar.
Related isn’t shy about admitting that the galleries are meant as amenities of sorts for deep-pocketed residents drawn to Chelsea by the glamorous aura of contemporary art. Whether any of this works out, it’s probably a good bet that in the near future, truly innovative art will find a home in some other place.