Surviving Rent: Why Artists Can’t Afford Critical Neutrality

by William Powhida on December 16, 2013 · 96 comments Opinion

Installation view of “Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1” at Industry City, Brooklyn NY. October 20 – December 15, 2013. Photos: Paul Porter and Alexander Porter. Courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency/artplusmagazine)

Installation view of “Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1” at Industry City, Brooklyn NY. October 20 – December 15, 2013. Photos: Paul Porter and Alexander Porter. Courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency/artplusmagazine)

As 2013 draws to a close, critics will be serving up their annual best and worst-of lists that offer a summation of what mattered in the art world this year. Jerry Saltz recently published his “Best Art Shows of 2013” in New York Magazine and picked “Come Together: Surviving Sandy,” organized by Phong Bui in Sunset Park’s Industry City warehouse complex, as the best show of the year. I haven’t seen the show, and I can’t pretend to offer an opinion about the quality of the show or the work. The premise is laudable and has brought together a large number of artists (many of whom I know and respect) affected by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and artists standing in solidarity with them. Jerry’s endorsement comes from his own passion for art and support for artists. “This exhibition verified that New York is as alive and brilliant as ever,” he writes. “Maybe more so, with artists spread out into all the boroughs, living poor but with style. Which is one of the foundational conditions of any great indigenous art scene.”

Jerry is right; artists are living poor, and his endorsement of the show highlights a glaring disconnect between what he sees going on and what is happening to artists throughout the city. “Surviving Sandy” took place in a space that formerly housed artists until the landlords evicted them and increased the rent by 50%.  Lise Soskolne recently published an excellent essay “Who Owns a Vacant Lot,” about the uneasy relationship between the Hasidic owners of Industry City and their artist tenants. Soskolne, a founding member of W.A.G.E., was involved in managing the rental of studio spaces to artists at Industry City, but was eventually forced out and replaced by the ownership.  Her vision, “Returning control of this site to artists and separating it from the market was the goal of my involvement at Industry City,” briefly worked.  For about two years, she was able to successfully negotiate the interests of artists and organizations like Light Industry with that of the landlords. Ultimately her vision was overwhelmed by other cultural events like Stranded!, a rave that brought in huge numbers of people and likely a lot of money. “My latent and diabolical fantasy was that New York could regain its potential to be a vacant lot once more. It could still be orphaned by all corporate and market entities, abandoned by all things aspirational.”

Soskolne was not able to achieve her goal of separating Industry City from market forces, and she acknowledges that it was in part rooted in a fantasy of empty spaces abandoned by capitalism, or the old New York that Jerry believes is still out there.  In 2013, artists are in open competition with groups that can generate much more revenue and offer greater returns on investments like residential housing developers and start-up tech companies. What both Jerry and Roberta missed in their glowing endorsements of “Surviving Sandy” is that it is a generous concept wrapped in a terrible dilemma for artists; how to survive the increase of real estate values and diminishing availability of affordable studios.  Most artists are working poor, and labor at other jobs to be able to afford studio spaces, with costs rising rapidly past $2 per square foot. From the capitalist’s perspective, artists are great tenants until there is someone else willing and able to pay more. “Surviving Sandy” may very well have been a great show, or a messy survey, but it was also a real-estate advertisement for Industry City’s ownership showcasing the available space to those who will be able to afford it.

When Jerry writes, “I call birdbrained-bullshit on all those who snip that New York is a pure trading floor, one that’s lost its place as a nexus of artistic activity,” he shifts the context of “Surviving Sandy” away from the problem of affordable studio spaces to a critique of the dominance of the art market. “Surviving Sandy” is presented as a shining example of art’s purity, undiluted by commercial interest, and the opportunity to advocate for the artistic community he loves by calling out Industry City for raising rents and evicting artists is missed. That’s too bad, because Jerry has a broad audience and his voice carries a great deal of weight.

But Jerry claims he and Roberta didn’t know anything about the evictions or massive rent increases; he thought the troubles of over a hundred artists were at 1717 Troutman Street in Bushwick. That error led his swipe at people like David Byrne, who are concerned that New York won’t be able to sustain a vibrant, living artistic community. Hoping to hit a home run against the malign forces of naysayers like me who complain about the pervasive influence of the market from auction records to rising rents, he totally wiffed on one of the most important and underreported aspects of “Surviving Sandy.”

For her part, Roberta wrote an excellent review of the show but failed to outline the context in which it took place. If neither Jerry or Roberta knew how “Surviving Sandy” actually came together—on the backs of displaced artists—it doesn’t make them terrible people, but reveals a startling gap in their understanding of what’s happening to their beloved art community. We don’t live in a time when this kind of neutrality is something to be admired.

Hurricane Sandy was a disaster of enormous proportions that no one could ignore.  The response to it from OccupySandy to the city’s efforts to rebuild the beaches in Far Rockaway in six months (what one worker told me would have taken three years) has been inspiring. It also revealed the persistent problem of poverty in the Rockaways, forcing New York to see a community that was already facing a slower, less visible form of economic devastation.  There’s nothing dramatic about rising rents and property values; it happens slowly, affecting pockets of individuals, and the dramatic fireworks emerge later in contentious debates around gentrification, where white artists are seen as harbingers of hipster-condo doom. Tensions build around the issues of race, class, and privilege as the luxury condominiums slowly rise in the background.  More will start going up in Bushwick on the old Rheingold Brewing site, 1,000 units of shiny new housing (with 10 percent legally mandated to be “affordable”).

I don’t know who will take over the space after “Surviving Sandy” (which closed this weekend). But whoever rents the space will be paying significantly more than the evicted artists.  That’s the quiet emergency facing artists in New York, and it’s something that needs to be discussed. Personally, the rent on my current studio space will have risen 53 percent in less than two years. The situation at Industry City doesn’t make “Surviving Sandy” a despicable show or ethically corrupt, but not talking about what happened to the displaced artists is a problem. Certainly, trying to use the show as an example that the conditions for artists are “great” is just wrong, and we should expect more from Jerry and Roberta.

In keeping with the spirit of “Surviving Sandy”, we need to demonstrate solidarity around issues of preserving affordable studio space in New York, and not start bashing each other for being more or less pious about the relationship between art, money, and real estate. Groups like the Artist Studio Affordability Project (ASAP) are working towards raising the necessary awareness about the rising costs of studios and providing artists with the information to make the best deals they can with landlords and commercial brokers. We also need the support of visible and vocal critics like Jerry and Roberta who command the public’s attention, and they need to be aware of the situation facing artists in order to do that.

I’ll leave you with this: The City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs recently had a closed hearing on a Monday afternoon at 1 pm when most of us were working, titled “Making New York  City  Affordable for Artists.” Paddy Johnson attended, and a few groups spoke on the behalf of artists (including the director of Spaceworks NYC), but if there were any artists in attendance, they did not testify.

  • uffthefluff

    Artists could probably afford to pay these higher rents if Art School tuition was not so high and if an MFA was not the new high school diploma. Perhaps artists, critics and curators should boycott student loan debt and instead follow the lead of BHQFU.

    • powhida

      Uff,

      You propose that an artist could invest their money in an MFA where they know in part professors/artists will be paid (and engage in 2+ years of learning however formalized) or handing their money over to in most cases, an unknown landlord? I’ve spoken at two BHQFU classes and respect their critique and approach to the costs of higher education, but it’s kind of insane to save your money to give it over to anonymous landlords quoting ‘market rates’. You should check out Caroline Woolard’s http://www.bfamfaphd.com which advocates buying a space and forming a self-organized, continuing educational setting before paying for a degree or paying ever increasing rents.

      • uffthefluff

        Oh absolutely. If artists can form communities independent from exploitative developers and college administrators and loan servicers alike then that would obviously be ideal. Artists should be turning towards savings and self-direction in any way possible at this point.

        • Kim

          Musicians, visual artists, and long time residents in Brooklyn are at the same impasse with sustainable rent. All seem to be mutually disinterested in each other, but their problems are the same.

          I only bring this up because I agree that an educational, non-profit setting is a good way to go, but I think permanence depends on engaging with diverse interests. I’m not suggesting a straight up community rec center with art studios tacked on, but I think artists need to embed themselves in something deeper than a lease if they want to have a better resistance to being priced out.

          If artists are priced out of studios, of course the only people who care will be artists. Same goes with the shutdown of the diy venues Market Hotel and Big Snow. But if the building has interests that span artists, musicians, and community projects, there’s A LOT of people who will care if the rent spikes.

          The model is similar to what the new Silent Barn is doing, and the new Market Hotel will also have a mixed-use angle, with art studios and office space.
          http://bedfordandbowery.com/2013/11/watch-todd-p-peter-shapiro-and-other-north-brooklyn-club-owners-talk-nightlife-and-diy/

          Also great article!

        • JAES

          they should be, whether they can is another horse of an entirely diff color. Do you forget how much materials cost, in addition to apartment and often additional studio space rent – if one can afford?

      • Stacey Fabrikant

        WP: Just got your piece from Paddle8 and then read your article. I am an attorney(retired)/collector(addicted) doing occasional pro bono work for artists and non-profit gallery spaces. There is tremendous money in the art world – let’s channel it into purchasing and renovating some ‘vacant lots’ and we can start a non-profit – once we come up with some funding, I’ll start a non-profit studio city and run the residency/leasing, etc.

    • Francis Thiebaud Winters

      MFA the “new HS diploma”??? Totally….

    • Bobojacobo

      Art school is free in many countries.

  • Bobojacobo

    Artists in the US are treated a bit like felons. They can only have certain lower-paying jobs, and are expected to live in relative poverty because of their dubious life choices. They are pushed into the fringes of the more ‘livable’ cities, like Chicago, NY, etc, and are a sizable underclass that will probably lose economic mobility. Only those born into economic or political privilege can survive comfortably without making huge sacrifices. If it sounds a bit melodramatic, it’s because the situation is pretty bad. I know artists in their 40s that live with their parents, I know talented people who can’t climb any higher despite their ambitions because of their crushing debt. I think a lot of us understood this when we studied art in college, but the situation is worse than anyone tells us. I advise people to look elsewhere (outside the US), where there are also talented artists as well as public funding and cheap rent. I think David is right and Jerry is wrong — New York is the financial capital of North America, but will be a mausoleum like London or Paris very soon, and I doubt there’s anything anyone can do about it.

    • Francis Thiebaud Winters

      A bit like felons, except for that part where felons go to prison and shit. and then that other part where they can’t vote or do various other things. So yeah, artists are treated “a bit” like felons. Please…..

      • Bobojacobo

        Hi Francis. Do I need to hold your hand and gently explain what “a bit like” means? Also, the use of exaggeration to prove a point is a pretty common rhetorical device, I’m so sorry that you can’t handle theatricality in writing (maybe I could run it through a computer program and churn out some numbers for you)? The truth is that artists are marginalized, are given limited mobility and financial means, and are confined to the fringes unless they come from wealthy or well-connected families. So, Francis, please…

        • Francis Thiebaud Winters

          No, that’s cool, no hand-holding necessary Bobo. Exaggeration IS a very common rhetorical advice. (Familiar with Godwin’s Rule perchance?) Hyperbole is common, but that doesn’t make it effective. Quite the opposite. Exaggeration is a horrible rhetorical device. “artists…a bit like felons” is beyond absurd. (FYI, you haven’t “proved” any point Bobo….)
          What’s more, artists are more beloved and glamorized by our culture than ever. Why do you think there are so many delusional ‘kids’ trying to break into the scene. Of course family$$$&connexions = a leg up across the board, not just in ART world. “Artists are marginalized”? Artists, if they are worth a damn, self-marginalize. That’s how it works. We operate on the fringes. If you want to make $$$, GET A JOB!!! Btw, do I need to make a list of the successful artists who were not born independently wealthy? There are more than a few. Fresh-faced kids with shiny art-school diplomas feeling sad b/c they can’t afford brunch AND a studio=SUCKERZ. Every once-in-a-while somebody gets lucky when they are young, otherwise its a long-con….AMEN. !!!!!!!

          • Bobojacobo

            Your contrarianism is adorable. It’s one thing to disagree, and another thing to launch into a juvenile tirade with nothing to gain and no point to make.

            My point is simple: artists in NY, and the US in general, are marginalized, and that’s wrong. It’s a pretty uncontroversial statement, and no one can really argue that artists (aside from a select few) aren’t given the necessary resources to be artists in the US. Should scientists also have day jobs, and just suck it up? Nope. So why should people who create culture be satisfied with being unable to make work?

            I also love your “artists need to get a job” approach, as if that would solve artists’ problems in the face of steeply rising rent (you sound like the quintessential Republican politician or clueless grandparent, offense intended). As an artist with a shitty day job (not living in NY) I’m not offended by the idea of working — I expect it — but it’s not a realistic scenario for artists in NY to be able to work a second or third job to afford the rent, just because it gels with your “law of the jungle” approach to life. You sound quite bitter, and also completely unsympathetic to real peoples’ lives.

            My solution is for artists to go to where it’s cheaper, where people are the most generous, and where their art is still well-received (Northern Europe). That’s a pretty bleak option for people living in NY — they want to live and work in NY, and they should be able to live without fear of being pushed even further out.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Hey Bobo, glad to hear you find my “contrarianism” adorable. What is more adorable is your delusion to know anything about me, my politics, etc. Sorry I offended you, but I am an artist, and I live in NYC. I have no gallery. No trust fund. A pile of student debt. I have a day job. I have an irrepressible urge to do what I do. It has earned me the respect of a good number of my peers, as well as a variety of elders. Gotten me into shows. That keeps me going.
            Do you really think anyone who wants ‘to be an artist’ in NY is entitled to some imaginary funding? From who? the government? PLEASE. There are REAL PROBLEMS facing the world, our species, our society……POOR ARTISTS ain’t one of ‘em. Hate to burst your bubble. Quit the navel gazing.
            The false equivalence between science and art is equally adorable, AND fundamentally naive. And newsflash: there is no shortage of potentially valuable scientific research that is underfunded….
            I’m a “real person”, thank you. Bitter? Not in the least. Certainly not bitter about self-pitying artists with delusions of entitlement crying foul at the big mean unfair world.
            You sound bitter, quit the “shitty day job”, that shit is for chumps like me in NYC!!!

          • Bobojacobo

            You make your politics pretty apparent. Your talk of people being ‘entitled,’ your self-centered arrogance and self-mythologizing, your strange idea that in the richest country — and richest city — on Earth artists shouldn’t receive government funding, all leads me (with plenty of evidence) to think that you’re a fundamentally conservative person. (Side note — scientists get FUNDING to go to grad school, and get FUNDING for projects, and get FUNDING to work for big companies and the government — yes, they are underpaid, but have you ever met a professional scientist with a day job)?

            NYC makes tons of money off of artists. Yet NYC treats its artists, for the most part, like they are disposable. That can’t be argued with. Cities like Copenhagen, Cologne, Berlin, etc have RENT CONTROL, ARTIST FUNDING, FREE ART SCHOOL, and flourishing artist communities. NYC won’t have theirs unless they change something — 20 years from now, and NYC will be Paris. I couldn’t possibly care less about you or your little shows — there are plenty of more reasonable artists — friends and otherwise — that I DO care about, and I’m sorry to see their careers being jeopardized by people who don’t care to make artists able to make art.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            “tirade”…..oh Bobo. Paris was last century, genius. Artists are disposable….the market is oversaturated, or that wouldn’t be the case. Bring on the attrition, move to the hinterlands (I actually spent a decade+ there, it ain’t bad AND the price is right!!!). I know some sorely underpaid and overworked adjuncts who would be thrilled I’m sure at the pay raises they would get from free art school!!! Oh yeah and our hypothetical scientists do have “day jobs”….AS SCIENTISTS!!! Apples and oranges…..and FUCK gov’t funding. Seriously, in this country with its grossly right-of-center politics. You are a bad joke friend, and trust me, YOU HAVE NO CLUE about my POLITICS. Clearly.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Really, where does the magic money come from? Screw subsidizing artists’ art. Give us universal healthcare and an ACTUAL safety net. There are much bigger issues here that if actually addressed would go a LONG way towards facilitating more people being able to make art and live decent lives. Priorities friend, priorities….

          • Bobojacobo

            The magic money? Where does it come from? HMMM. The Germans pay for it by taxing people. Instead of sinking all of their money into a bloated military, THEY SPEND IT ON ART AND EDUCATION. Priorities, priorities indeed. God it’s dizzying how stupid you are.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            I’m all for it Bobo. SERIOUSLY. Bring on the taxes and slash the military. I’m with you. That has very little to do with the question of whether everybody who wants to be an artist gets to just afford to be an artist (whatever that means) regardless of commercial potential. Or government approval. Oh yeah. FUCK THAT. Really. It’s dizzying how unable to tease out nuance in REALITY you are.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            AND THANK YOU FOR CARING BOBOJACOBO. REALLY. Straight from my heart!!!

          • Bobojacobo

            Ugh yeah wouldn’t it be horrible if professional artists got a little government funding throughout their graduate studies to make it a more responsible professional choice? The idea of rent being controlled for poor people and artists just makes me want to puke (I mean, what are we, Stalinists?), and money set aside for public art is a waste, we could use that to subsidize bankers or politicians instead! I’m much happier living in a world where professional artists scrounge for resources, where they make boring work to sell to rich people out of fear of defaulting on their loans, where they live in increasingly worse parts of town and can’t travel to see family, afford a new car, or pay for a studio space. It’s paradise, believe me. Those unambitious and lazy Germans and Danes and Swedes, with their high standard of living and minimal loans to repay, and their paid internship experience and more extensive higher education, and their tolerable studio size and ability to travel every now and then, that just makes me want to THROW UP ALL OVER MYSELF. I just hope that New York City keeps up the good work, so that we don’t all one day start making more and better works of art with the help of the government to which we pay taxes and from which scientists, farmers, bureaucrats, military personnel, doctors, lawyers, automotive workers, historians, contractors, teachers, electricians, police officers, and practically every other profession benefit from. Because who need good art? I mean really, who cares?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Where do you live again?

          • Bobojacobo

            Oh, what, we’re having a slumber party? I live in the US, but not New York. Any other details? Underwear color? What kind of beer I keep in the fridge?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            No I was just trying to ascertain why YOU are so fired up about the so-called crisis in NYC arts. And what actual first person experience informs you re: that situation. Slumber party? Are you 12? Bottles or cans?

          • Bobojacobo

            Yeah, why would I POSSIBLY CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE, ART, OR GENTRIFICATION, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            So you’ve never lived in NY? Visited?

          • Bobojacobo

            I’ve been there probably about 40 times. Longest I stayed was 2 weeks. Been to every borough except Staten Island. Your point?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            About 40 times. Glad you are keeping such close track. Just wanted to confirm your functional first-hand ignorance. Thnx.

          • Bobojacobo

            Yes, an approximate number off the top of my head is “keeping such close track.” You’re a mess.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            The Germans……!!!

          • Bobojacobo

            Germany has a universal healthcare net. It has money set aside for art and music. It has free education. It has guns off the street. It has rent control. It has a more stable economy, lower unemployment, and higher mobility than the US. Priorities, priorities.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Ok. Move to Berlin. Have a blast. Hope you’re white!

          • Bobojacobo

            I’ve lived there before. It’s less racist by leaps and bounds than it is in the US. Lots of Turks, Israelis, Russians, great place. But you’ve probably never been. Have fun in NY — hope you’re rich!

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Nothing says “history of progressive tolerance” than lots of Turks, Israelis, and Russians in Berlin. Is that the school part? NY is fun. Back after 12 years of self imposed exile in the northern woods. Thanks for the best wishes, etc but sadly no, I’m not rich. Unless you are talking global standards, that type of thing. Then fuck yeah. I’m loaded. Relative to most of the world. Sure.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            It’s true. I’ve “never been”. Never had the cash to travel Europe!

          • Bobojacobo

            That’s funny, all my friends in Europe have the money to make it to NY. Hmm, maybe because they’re not saddled with debt from getting higher education.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Maybe. You really do have trouble teasing out the nuances of an argument. We agree on most of these issues, I just think equating the treatment of felons in this country with the plight of artists is ridiculous. Because it is. Or maybe you just haven’t read up on the state of American prisons lately.

          • Bobojacobo

            Oh now you’re lecturing me on US prisons? Jesus. Get a grip. You’re lying, you’re 12, not 38.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            No just pointing out what an asinine statement/analogy/equation that was.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            You “done time”?

          • Bobojacobo

            You know what’s asinine? Every comment you’ve made on this thread. Here’s a nuance you can’t understand: this article that we’re commenting about touches on gentrification and the ability of artists to live and make work in NYC. And you’re too busy being a contrarian with nothing to contribute to notice how asinine your input is. You’ve made no point, this entire time, about anything. That’s pretty sad.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            That’s why you keep engaging me. Right? Because artists might as well be felons. Right?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Yes it “touches” on that. But it is otherwise mainly an outlet for Bill Powhida to get his Jerry and Roberta axe-grind on. Good for him. More power to him. I have no quarrel with that. Necessarily. I just found your assertion re: the treatment of felons being comparable to artists to be imbecilic. So I thought I’d say something. What is most bizarre is the fact that what you are arguing for is that artists be treated MORE like felons. ie 3 hots and a cot, free college and shit, on the govt dime. Right?

          • Bobojacobo

            Dude. Berlin is home to the freaking LOVE PARADE. It’s more tolerant than NY is. People actually get along. Better public transportation, cheaper rent, no shortage of world-class art, lots of artists, much more manageable and scenic, more interesting history. Better in every way than NY. Except not as good at funding Republicans with Wall Street money.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Awesome. Go there. Have fun. No one here will stop you. I promise.

          • Bobojacobo

            Enjoy the rent hikes and squalor.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Eh. I live in Queens. It’s beautiful. Huge wooded park a few blocks away. I love it. Most diverse county in the country. And I’m a building super/caretaker. So there’s no rent. For now !!!!

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            OK. that settles it. There’s a LOVE PARADE. Can’t argue with that!!!

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Is that the part where you “school me” in politics?

          • Bobojacobo

            It’s the part where I have a better grip of reality than you. Your ONLY argument so far has been: “Being an artist is sooo hard, I don’t want government money because fuck the government, I’m too poor to travel, New York is perfect the way it is.”

          • Bobojacobo

            Jesus, you really have a way of saying a lot and never having anything to say. Have fun in your far-right, law-of-the-jungle 1930s Randian playground. (Oh and please, I could school you in politics ANY day, American, European, Latin American, TRY ME).

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Hate the game not the player. I certainly didn’t bring about the randian dystopia WE LIVE IN ALREADY. If you think the best way to change that as an artist is bitching you are delusional. If you think the biggest crisis in our society is the struggle of artists you are a FUCKING ASS. School me away Kissinger.

          • Bobojacobo

            You actually might be insane. No one, not a single person, not a single person EVER, in the history of mankind, or anywhere on this thread, or anywhere we’ve ever been, said that the biggest crisis in our society is the struggle of artists. I mean, really, get your head checked out, you are hallucinating.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Thus spake the ALL KNOWING BOBOJACOBO.

          • Bobojacobo

            Spake? Really? Meds Francis?? Did you take them??

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            http://www.thefreedictionary.com/spake
            Archaic or dialect a past tense of speak. speak (spik) v. spoke, spo•ken, speak• ing. v.i.. 1. to utter words or articulate …Nietzsce buddy. He’s German. Just got home from work and walked the dog. I’ll hit a spliff in a minute or too. So yeah, currently “off meds”.

          • Bobojacobo

            Dude, you’re 38. Not 1038.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            And apparently more well read than you. I’m still waiting for the schooling pal. Being it on! You promised!!!

          • Bobojacobo

            More well-read? Man, you have the worst grammar and spelling, and seem to be completely ignorant of your surroundings. You’re entirely un-self-aware. I mean, SPAKE for Chrissakes? SPAKE??

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Thus spake Zarathustra. I get it. You missed the reference. You’re young yet. You’ve got time. It’s cool.

          • Bobojacobo

            Um the title is “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” Not “Thus Spake Zarathustra.” The original is “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” I’ve read it, Strauss’ version as well. You’re young still too, maybe one day you’ll learn to use proper English.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Actually it depends on the version/translation.

          • Bobojacobo

            Alright, then use outdated spelling if you must. You use outdated thinking, so why not outdated spelling?

          • Bobojacobo

            Also… hate the game, not the player? How old are you? 12?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            38.

          • Bobojacobo

            Ouch. What other outdated bunk wisdom do you have to impart? Bros before hos?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Nah, I’ve always been clear on those priorities. A little chivalry goes a long way junior.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            1930′s ? You mean heyday of the WPA when the government was hooking.the.artists.UP!!! the NewDeal….???? C’mon Bobo. School me!!!! You clearly have NO understanding of contemporary Us politics if you think your magic (yes magic) money bag of taxes is headed for the arts. That is fantasy. Let’s work on the tangible: healthcare. Basic dignity for the poor and INVOLUNTARILY MARGINALIZED (were you conscripted into art school?)…. Stuff like that is challenge enough. Short on blood in the streets and if that’s what you are into, well. Best of luck to yr artist friends. AND MINE!!!

          • Bobojacobo

            Um now you’re on a tirade about Universal Healthcare? What? Do you know how to even stick to an argument? Also, if you think the New Deal spent more than a fraction on actual art, you’re nuts. Temporary work on murals isn’t comparable to long-term support for the arts. And who said I EXPECT money to roll in for artists in the US? Your limited abilities to read, or vivid hallucinations, make it impossible to follow your logic.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            You have a really challenged working definition of “tirade”.

    • Francis Thiebaud Winters

      I just came back to this to wrap my head around how all this started. The first paragraph of this comment is so phenomenonally dumb it defies logic and/or reason. Really it does. I love the idea of the govt agency that forces artists to ONLY take “certain lower-paying jobs” as a result of their collective “dubiousness”. LOL.

      • Bobojacobo

        You’re mentally not all there. You never learned to read, to interpret information. You don’t know what analogies are, or metaphors, or really much about anything at all. You’re a conservative, you live in an alternate reality. A world where Berlin is still the capital of Nazi Germany, a world where no one pays rent and all live in secluded wooded areas of New York, a world where people use words like “spake” in common vernacular, a world where articles about artists’ rent are really about universal healthcare, a world where public funding for art is evil . You’ve contradicted yourself more times than I can count. You lecture people on their grammar, while misspelling words left and right. You complain about there not being adequate healthcare, and yet anything free from the government is bad. You’re proud of living in a diverse area but shudder at the though of living next to Russians or Israelis.

        Arguing with you in pointless. You’re combative about everything, for no reason. I made a simple point — artists in NY and the US in general are marginalized. You’ve ranted — poorly — about just about everything else. I hope that at 38 I’m not an incoherent, sub-literate, washed-up mess like you.

        • Francis Thiebaud Winters

          Critical thinking isn’t your specialty is it? You have a knack for reductive thinking. I’m sure that will serve you well in free grad school as well as later in life. For thoughts on why government funded art is a potentially a mixed blessing (at best) I suggest Dave hickeys “invisible dragon”. I’m not gonna waste my time selling you in my not-right wing credentials. The world ain’t as black and white as your naïveté would have you believe. That will change. Probably. It does for most people. I haven’t contradicted myself at all. I think the govt should take care of business: healthcare, schools ( including ART ed!!!), infrastructure …. ART happens anyway. Music happens anyway. With or without govt funds. Look around you. The other stuff doesn’t. Not a contradiction.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Still waiting for you to school me on politics. C’mon. Think of it as a public service to a wretch like me.

          • Bobojacobo

            Wait, this is coming from the guy who thinks the government is evil if it supports the arts, and World War 2 never ended. How am I supposed to ‘school’ a brainless illiterate?

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            You’ve done a spectacular job making that case that artists are treated “a bit” like felons in the US. bang-up job. Getting back to the original point (these digressions are truly wearisome).

          • Bobojacobo

            You’ve made a spectacular case that you can’t read, can’t stick to the subject, and are completely un-self-aware. I wonder if you’ll get tired enough of your digressions and one day stop posting.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            I’d love to, but yr too easy. Makes it hard. So caught up YOU pursue ME across 2 threads. All bc I point out how dumb yr analogy is. I’m sure you could find scores if felons who would agree that the treatment of artists is a bit like their experience ( in US likely as non-violent drug offenders, victims of brutal mandatory minimum sentencing). Totally a bit like the plight of the artist c.2013. LOL.
            Personally I’ve always thought it more like a monastery than prison: voluntary commitment , fervent devotion to transcendence, willing isolation in studio (cell). Acknowledgment of individual role in some bigger purpose: ART. If you feel trapped: LIBERATE YRSELF. GO FOR THE HARD SCIENCES!!!! No day job!!!! like being a rock star. Or something. I imagine….

          • Bobojacobo

            By all means, please close your eyes to your crushing debt. Ignore the economic struggles of your friends. Pretend like artists aren’t trapped in marginal areas because of their profession. Maybe if we say that artists are these amazing creatures who don’t need comfort or stability or other things elite people get, and we say that they’re like shamans or monks or martyrs and have magic powers to make these problems psychically melt away, then we can excuse all of the insurmountable obstacles artists face. That will really get us somewhere. Why should people who create culture in the world’s richest city, in the world’s richest country, get any kind of economic recognition for their contributions? Because, according to you, that would be fascism. With this statement, I declare you an insane Republican, and end this debate.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Debate? Were we debating? All I heard was a string of boasts about yr political acumen interspersed with a series of fundamentally baseless (and I promise you totally off base and wrong !!!) ad hominem attacks.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Also: you have figured out by now that my name isn’t actually “Francis”, right Bobo?
            All the best in 2014,
            F.T.W.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            PS- you really are in wrong biz kid. Get out while you can.
            Best, Francis.

          • Francis Thiebaud Winters

            Pretty sure I am literate. That men’s I kin rid n writ. WRIGHT?
            But more importantly : WW2 rages on. The struggle against fascism is ALIVE AND WELL. WHETHRR U REKOGGNISE IT or NOYT. WHICH SIDE ARE U ON, anyway? You sure come off like an all-knowing FASCIST THOUGHT POLICE TYPE.

          • Bobojacobo

            I’m looking around me. Artists in Northern Europe are making great work, are more able to live their lives without fear of gentrification, and are better off for it. Look around yourself. Let’s hope the rent never kicks in for you, because then you’ll be forced to live in the same world that your friends in NYC do. It’s not so great.

  • Jenny Dubnau

    Thanks for this well-argued piece. Artists need to pull together with other folks in the arts as well as small businesses and start-ups to get commercial rents out of the stratosphere. We need NYC, our home, to be artist-friendly, not just 1% friendly.

    • Guest

      With all due respect Mr. Brody, what difference would seeing the show make? Its a rigged game, and that’s what Powhida is pointing out. You are correct in trying to create a new model for selling and seeing art, but another show put on by and for those in charge does nothing but reinforce the status-quo of exploited artists. Why do you defend those who view us as slave labor?

  • Danny Brody

    Maybe the problem is that even people like yourself DIDN’T SEE THE SHOW! Are you so busy that what some called the show of the year couldn’t be shoe-horned into your tight schedule? If you care so much about your fellow artists, how about checking out their work? You know, like, supporting them? C’mon, man. Everyone knows rents are going to go up, artists will get displaced. This has happened before, ya know? Do the work, do good work, work harder than the landlords, build a business model that works, move to Canarsie!

    • VioletGates

      With all due respect Mr. Brody, what difference would seeing the show make? Its a rigged game, and that’s what Powhida is pointing out. You are correct in trying to create a new model for selling and seeing art, but another show put on by and for those in charge does nothing but reinforce the status-quo of exploited artists. Why do you defend those who basically view us as slave labor? Don’t be fooled by Saltz and his act, he has a stake in things staying the same.

    • powhida

      Danny,

      As a symbolic expression of solidarity, you know, ‘checking out their work’, Jerry did that. He took the time and wrote about it. He didn’t know rents are going up or that artists had been displaced. I’m sure he hopes that doesn’t happen or that artists should have to build ‘business models’ that work. I’m also not sure Canarsie wants artists showing up en masse. You know, like the people who live there might get displaced?

      • Danny Brody

        William my friend, I don’t think it is “symbolic” to see work, it is paramount. I don’t care what Saltz thinks, I really don’t. My response was to your piece; and I feel that solidarity with artists is not just about rent, it is about sharing common vision; and not just about art, but about community. Also, I didn’t mean to sound harsh, nor I am I being fatalistic, just realistic—watching something happen that has happened a million times before (e.g., rising rents), and thinking, oh, this time it will be different, is just illogical, and probably self-defeating. I’ve seen it happen not just here, but in DC and Miami as well. Everyone needs to live somewhere-my point about Canarsie is that it is cheap-not just for artists but for the rest of the working-class.

    • Jenny Dubnau

      Danny, I don’t think Powhida’s piece is really about the artistic merits of the Sandy show, and he certainly doesn’t cast particular aspersions on any of the participating artists. It’s just that the context, which is that over 100 artists lost their spaces due to rent increases from the very sponsor of the show, should be too ironic to be ignored, by critics and writers, and by the art community at large. Frankly, 100 artists losing their spaces is probably more than were displaced from Sandy itself. And it’s lame, respectfully, to suggest that artists take a fatalistic view of the rent crisis. Passivity is not smart, and fatalism is not cool. Because this rent crisis affects the very fabric of our lives here in NYC, and I am personally not about to give up on the city where I grew up, and where I mean to make my life and my work.

  • Larry Walczak

    Kudos to William Powhida for having the courage and smarts for discussing the underlying hypocrisy of this exhibit “saving Sandy”. I also could not attend this show knowing what the realators were up to. I’m thankful someone put all this into such a well informed essay such as.

  • Steve Locke

    This is beautifully articulated and much appreciated.

  • Billy

    Nice. However, the 3,4, and 5 dollar per sq. ft rents were not mentioned. The $2′s are a white whale. Perhaps another article; one that explores the new threshholds set by accepting such conditions. 90 sq ft at $400 is a place to raise veal. “Common space” and wifi are apartment comforts that dont justify increased rents.
    And artist run buildings that exploit their own are undignified at best.
    Nice article Will. Thank you.

  • Francis Thiebaud Winters

    Other issues aside, this whole artists who can’t distinguish between “poor” and “broke” thing is reeeallyyy getting tired.

  • CL

    Excellent point, and one is not unrelated to the largely apolitical (or, one might argue, de-politicized) nature of the exhibition itself–another point that as far as I know was absent from the critical reception. However, I must ask: why does Mr. Powhida need to point out that the owners of Industry City are Hasidic Jews? He echoes Lise Soskolne’s original article, which mentions that the owners and managers are Orthodox Jews without explaining why that matters. (Indeed, this reference is oddly inscribed in the very title of Ms. Soskolne’s article.) Um, why exactly is religion relevant here?

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