Monday, April 28, 2008

Can a New Yorker afford art? ---New York

As a regular Chelsea gallery goer, I never question who is actually buying art in New York city. I go to the opening reception for the artist on Thursdays, I drink wine and try the snacks offered. I look around at the paintings or the photographs, usually extreme for my taste (with some exceptions). I occasionally get the price list for each painting exhibited. Prices vary: they start from a low $1,000 per item to a very steep $80,000 for a massive artistic creation. Each week, there are tens of gallery openings in Chelsea, Soho, Mid-town and Upper East. An artist once told me that there are 500 galleries in NYC for 20,000 artists. I don't know if the numbers are real. But if it is true, there are plenty of artists desperate to exhibit.
Last week, for the very first time, I visited a Soho photography exhibition opening (Grant Gallery). The atmosphere was buzzing, there was plenty of wine, cheese, fruits and crackers. The photos were “interesting” in my opinion and priced from $ 1,000 going up to $10,000.

But I can’t help thinking. With the economy not doing well, the crashing dollar, the high petrol prices, can a New Yorker afford buying art? With most of gallery openings full offering not only free drinks but free food, we can argue that gallery owners see a big business. After all, a reception is a PR event: who can say no to a free glass of wine (or beer), free Brie, tasty grapes and parmesan crackers? Most people I know visit the galleries for the atmosphere, then the freebies, then for the art. But I am sure that some people also buy. I wonder though if they are the “average” New Yorker. In an art auction I attended a few weeks ago, the Chinese-American woman sitting in front of me, spent at least $25,000 on items that night. She then said that she was an investor. Well, I didn’t expect her to be just an employee. If she were just an employee, would have bought them?