Luhring Augustine’s Bushwick Expansion: Moving Artists Out by Moving Art In

by Paddy Johnson on August 16, 2011 · 7 comments Newswire

Luhring Augustine's new storage and exhibition space on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick (Courtesy of Rexrode Chirigos Architects and Luhring Augustine)

News that Luhring Augustine bought a storage space in Bushwick with plans use roughly a quarter of it for exhibition space surfaced last year, but thanks to Julia Halperin’s reporting at ArtINFO we’re all talking about it again. They plan to open their new space November 5th. WNYC’s Marlon Bishop followed up yesterday with a post of his own, chatting with a number of folks around town (including me).

“We're hoping the neighborhood's hipness will work to our advantage,” said the senior director of Luhring Augustine, Natalia Sacasa. “There are a lot of restaurants in the area that are attracting people from Manhattan, so we'll be doing extended hours on Fridays, that sort of thing.”

Sacasa cited Roberta’s over at ArtINFO as a business that draws customers into Brooklyn from the city. As I mentioned in the Fresh Links, I think it’s important to keep some perspective here: Roberta’s is a pizza shop. The food’s great and all, but it’s not a high end restaurant catering to the rich. It’s just a relatively successful business that’s emerged out of the food trend. There’s an equal amount of evidence that we’ll see a repeat of what Williamsburg galleries learned in the early 2000s:  Collectors don’t visit Brooklyn very often.

I’d wager that Luhring Augustine is aware of this, and is hedging their bets on the exhibition space. Certainly, it doesn’t seem like they are pouring a lot of extra money into a building that has all the amenities their previous shared space in Long Island provided; private viewing rooms, galleries to temporarily hang work for documentation, and long term installation spaces to name a few. ArtINFO reports that the gallery has not yet determined whether they will bring on additional staff to man the space (though rumor is they are looking), and their first show is one collectors could just as easily see at the gallery or even in their homes: It’s a solo exhibition showcasing one new film by pioneering filmmaker Charles Atlas and two older works.

Notably, Atlas is not exactly one of the unsung artist heros of Bushwick in need of a little exposure. He’s been working since the late 70’s in the field of dance-media and has collaborated with the likes of Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Given this first show, it seems unlikely that Luhring Augustine’s Bushwick program will be seeking out new, untested, talent.

When I spoke to WNYC yesterday, I told them I didn’t think the rise of a new commercial gallery district will necessarily be great for the community — if that’s what one storage unit even points to — but the issue is a little less black and white than I made it out to be then. (I’m quoted as saying “having a lot of commercial galleries in Bushwick is not a good thing for the artists of Bushwick”.) Bushwick rents are already higher than they should be — a commercial gallery strip would just augment this problem in nearby areas zoned residential. Of course, good things can come of development — stronger schools being just one example — but artist income never seems to rise at the rate of real estate prices. Eventually artists may be pushed out of Bushwick, just as they were Soho and Williamsburg. Speaking to this, I am reminded of Jason Murison’s recent essay for The Price of Nothing: Three Stories About Art and Real Estate over at Paper Monument. “At a certain point, the real estate problems facing artists will become the problems of the developers who rely on them” writes Murison, “if cheap rent fuels the influx of artists to a location, thus accelerating development, what happens when those rents cease to be available. What happens once the artists are priced completely out of the city? Does everyone then move on to Berlin?”

  • Norskamerikansk

    No, they move on to Detroit. Then once there, they get priced out of consecutive neighborhoods until they move on to Cleveland.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_54G22QQOQNYSVUIOMG7H5OGHVI Jennifer

    Thanks, now I won’t be able to afford a studio in Bushwick in like 2 years.

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  • Jaugustine

    Grow up Jennifer, Luhring Augustine is creating jobs in the hopes of improving Brooklyn through incredible art and stimulating local business. And you’re right, you won’t be able to afford a space in Bushwick in “like” two years. Lets hope that there is no robbery taking place on Knickerbocker Ave. Have some dignity.

  • Sdf

    It’s not like an average artist would be able to afford a studio in Bushwick in, like, two years anyways.  The gallery is a symptom, not a cause, though I wonder if there are Two Trees like neighborhood manipulations going on – I wish I’d bought real estate there before the gallery made this announcement.

  • Sinceiwas12

    i lived in bushwick,and had a gallery in b’burg..old residents,raise the rents,sell the buildings,and then send their kids private colleges.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hakka3 George J.A. Murray

    Um, for what it’s worth, Roberta’s is not just a ‘pizza shop’, according to The New York Times; it’s ‘one of the more extraordinary restaurants in the United States’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/dining/reviews/robertas-nyc-restaurant-review.html?pagewanted=all). I wholeheartedly agree, and if the smattering of celebrities who’ve been drawn to Bushwick to sample Roberta’s wares are any indication, then there’s a chance it might prove attractive to big-time collectors as well. 

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