The Bowery Revival Has Not Hurt the Area’s Historic Charm

Over the past ten years the Bowery has transformed itself almost unrecognizably from a skid-row, impoverished neighborhood, to a trendy, up-scale destination for artists, tourists and others just exploring the more interesting sites around town.

The Bowery Hotel Today

The Bowery Hotel Today

Just walking down the famed street which the neighborhood takes its name from and pedestrians will see high-brow restaurants, glittery night spots, high-end art galleries, luxury hotels and condos, and the world famous New Museum, all clamoring for your dutiful attention. It is hard to believe, let alone remember, that this street was the home to scores of homeless, alcoholics, addicts and other unfortunates.

Yet, the historic nature of the area has not been lost with the danger and grime. The 18th and 19th century buildings are still standing, lending an aura of authenticity to the surroundings. A poetry club brings to mind the Beat poets who used to gather here, writing love-notes to the neighborhood. A few family-owned businesses, including restaurant supply and lighting shops are still around, reminding us that despite the quick gentrification, the neighborhood still has a soul.

The Bowery of Old

The Bowery of Old

“You feel like you’re in a part of history still,” said real estate agent Larry Carty of Corcoran. “When you step out, you have old-school places along with new institutions. People see the culture and the restaurants as amenities to their spaces.”

“Come Closer” Tells the Tale of Artists on the Bowery

 Curt Hoppe

“Bettie and The Ramones,” oil on canvas by Curt Hoppe

Opening on Wednesday and running through January is an exhibit at the New Museum examining the life of artists who chose to make their home along the infamous Manhattan boulevard known as the Bowery.

During the 60s, 70s and 80s the Bowery was a well-known haven for the homeless and those otherwise seeking the cheapest possible places to live. Flophouses and tumbledown apartment hotels housed the penniless of every stripe, including starving artists.

The exhibit will have on view 40 pieces from 20 Bowery artists who lived in the midst of those impoverished conditions; a reality that is fast fading into the annals of history as the Bowery remakes itself into a hip, high-rent and low tolerance for poverty, district.

“The Bowery was spoken about as a no-man’s-land, a thoroughfare of how people got to the Manhattan Bridge or to the Williamsburg Bridge,” said the show’s curator, Ethan Swan. Swan is also in charge of educational development at the New Museum, which is located at 235 Bowery.

“It was not a place that people thought of staying in much,” he added.

One exception was the artists, who were willing to overlook what others avoided and rented out loft space for dirt-cheap. At first the artists left their surroundings out of their works. That began to change beginning in 1969.

“That is when the artists started to really invite the Bowery into their studios,” Swan explained.

Curt Hoppe is one of the artists who began to fall in love with the Bowery. His work as a painter and photographer is included in the “Come Closer” show.

“If you have to run from the subway to your apartment, that is when you know you are in a good neighborhood,” said Hoppe, who still lives and works in his studio at 98 Bowery, a building that housed many of the era’s well-known artists.

“It has been just a very cool building… there is something special about this building, but I don’t know what it is,” added Hoppe.

Tour the Newest Bowery Buildings with Architect John Hill

The New Museum of Contemporary Art

Come take a look at some of what’s new on the Bowery. From Spring Street to Astor Place, and many of the side streets along the way, John Hill, architect and blogger, will take you to see many of the Bowery’s newest buildings.

The 92nd Street Y’s Tribeca branch is hosting “The Bowery Changing,” an opportunity to get to know one of New York’s most historical neighborhoods with adjunct professor at the New York Institute of Technology and the author of “Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture,” John Hill.

The tour is scheduled for July 14, 2012, at 11am and meeting in front of the New Museum at 235 Bowery at Prince Street. The cost to participate is $25.

New Museum Installs 28-Foot Tall Rose on Facade

If you’re walking down the Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side this week, you may notice something different on the facade of the New Museum. A 28-foot tall steel, aluminum and lacquer rose now stands on the museum’s ledge where Ugo Rondinone’s Hell, Yes! rainbow used to be.

German Post-war Contemporary sculptor Isa Genzken created Rose II, her first piece of public art to be installed in the United States. It was installed on Saturday and will remain on view through 2011. (Genzken made her first Rose in 1993.)

Rondinone’s Hell, Yes! was put up on the facade of the New Museum in December 2007 to celebrate the contemporary museum’s first freestanding building on the Bowery.