Shepard Fairey and Hope
New Yorkers, who have always prided themselves as cultural pioneers, should be concerned that new and upcoming artists have no affordable places to live and work anymore in the Big Apple.
Shepard Fairey, who now lives in Los Angeles, is a popular street artist who has a lot to say on this subject. Fairey is the creator of the ubiquitous Obama 2008 campaign poster “Hope,” among other major works. He was attending a Hennessy V.S luncheon at Soho House New York honoring his design for a label on a limited-edition bottle of their signature Cognac.
Fairey warned that New York stands to lose its place as America’s cultural mecca if it doesn’t act.
“New York was a hub for so long [because] high-low culture, high-low economics co-mingled very fluidly for years.”
“New York is incredibly successful, and one of the things that’s suffering is space for people to be struggling to make something that nobody’s seen before, or hear something nobody’s seen before, where they have no money and it’s not commercially viable yet, but it’s going to be the next thing. That’s happening in LA,” Fairey commented.
All the great neighborhoods that used to house struggling artists, such as Soho, the Bowery, Greenwich Village and Williamsburg, are now centers for high-rent condos and office buildings which used to house artists’ lofts and studios.
“You can’t be in New York and not have ¬either a trust fund or a good enough job to live,” he added. “Artists are screwed in New York right now.”
Fairey is working on a mural right now at 161 Bowery as part of the Little Italy Street Art Project.
Last Bowery outpost of the Salvation Army is no more
A true testament to the times we are living in was the recent closure of the Bowery’s last branch of the helping institution, the Salvation Army. The Army moved in a little over 100 years ago into what was called then “Booth House.” The veteran institution came to the Bowery to help down and out men, a population that has frequented the Bowery for almost as long as the neighborhood existed.
During World War II the country’s economic situation improved and the number of homeless men declined. Services for populations at risk improved. Many of the alcoholics, prostitutes and vagrants who had inhabited the area fled as a result of a concerted effort by the city to remove them.
Through the decades since the war the neighborhood has gone through many changes. The latest upheaval has been the hurried gentrification of the Bowery with an increasing number of renovations, new restaurants and other shops opening up to satisfy a new population of upwardly mobile residents.
As a result institutions like the Salvation Army play a smaller role in the neighborhood’s culture. Perhaps even more of an influence is the real estate boom Manhattan is experiencing now, where even old, dilapidated apartments and buildings are fetching awesome prices.
The building at 223-225 Bowery is one of the tallest along the one-mile stretch of street, its height a symbol of the hope the Salvation offered to the most downtrodden among New Yorkers. Now the building will take on a whole new meaning, as it is turned into a high-end hotel and luxury condominium. The developers paid $30 million for the premises, and will most likely be able to recoup their investment many-fold as apartments in the area are fetching as much as $2,500 per square foot.
The Salvation Army will be setting up their new shop in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. That neighborhood was chosen as it is also has burgeoning ethnic Chinese population similar to that the Bowery.