Is the Upper East Side New York’s Next Hot Art Neighborhood?

Gagosian's new Park Avenue and 75th Street outpost. Picture: Courtesy of Gagosian.
Gagosian's new Park Avenue and 75th Street outpost. Picture: Courtesy of Gagosian.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Robert Blumenthal perfectly stated what’s been on a lot of dealers’ minds recently: “The Upper East Side is so unhip, it’s hip.” He went on to remark that when deciding where to open his eponymous gallery, he thought about the up-and-coming Lower East Side, but didn’t even consider Chelsea.

Due to astronomically high rents, heavy competition, and boring “white box” architecture, it looks like the art neighborhood du jour may quickly be turning into the art neighborhood du last decade. Chelsea-based gallerist Zach Feuer admitted he is ready for a change. “Frankly, it’s become kind of boring, ” he said. “I walk down the street, and it feels like a row of spectacles.”

But why the Upper East Side? Previously thought of as a place where, as gallerist Jack Tilton put it, “the only good artists… are dead artists,” the area offers advantages that downtown neighborhoods don’t, including proximity to moneyed collectors and prestigious art institutions, as well as making it easier for contemporary art spaces to stand out amid the modern and Old Master dealers. Tilton also added that thanks to cutting-edge gallery operators like Adam Lindemann, Joe Nahmad, and Craig Starr, the area suddenly seems more appealing.

While there’s no mass exodus from Chelsea—yet—those in the know are dipping their toes in the uptown water and finding it a bit warmer. Larry Gagosian recently christened a third Upper East Side space at East 75th Street and Park Avenue, and Los Angeles’s Blum & Poe have opened their East Coast outpost in a townhouse on East 66th Street.

Speaking for a new wave of gallerists, Blumenthal declared, “Chelsea is a generation before me.” Much like the shift from the East Village to SoHo and then to Chelsea, each decade does seem to usher in a new home for contemporary art in New York.

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