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From Miami to Brooklyn to Chicago and far beyond, art and real estate continue to merge. Yesterday’s announcement in the New York Times that David Zwirner would be moving to a new $50m gallery in Chelsea only served to underscore the trend that ranges from developers buying large-scale art works to anchor complexes to real estate agents staging homes with borrowed art works and, as Architectural Digest recently pointed out, developers taking booths at art fairs to pitch their projects.
In Chicago, Jeanne Gang’s highly anticipated Vista Tower—set to be completed in 2020—is expected to be the pinnacle of luxury living in the Windy City. […] In September, Vista Tower set up a booth at EXPO Chicago, the city’s large annual gathering of contemporary art galleries—Chi-Town’s take on Art Basel—to spread the word, and Robin Tebbe, Magellan’s chief marketing officer, says that this partnership attracted substantial buyer interest. “Our buyers tend to be supporters and connoisseurs of the fine arts,” Tebbe says. (Vista’s units are on the higher end, ranging from around $1 million to $17 million.)
In New York City’s highly competitive real estate market, Chelsea developers have begun to use galleries as the kind of anchor tenants that raise the value of the apartments above.
Like hotels offering rent-free space to top chefs and restaurateurs to tone up their brands, Chelsea real estate developers are tapping brand-name galleries to differentiate their projects.
That’s what seems to be happening with Zwirner’s new space. Although the Times presents the move as Zwirner’s, the announcing article is filled with clues to what might really be going on here.
Let’s set aside the fact that the Wall Street Journal ran a long profile (one of several the paper has done) of Zwirner over the weekend. Instead of shying away from following a rival paper, the Times seems to have grasped at any excuse to make news with the gallerist. In the process, the Times fell for a real estate marketing ploy that seems to be a huge boon for Zwirner.
Just before the New Year, The Real Deal reported that Israeli developer Uri Chaitchik was developing 540 W. 21st under the rubric of Casco Development. According to that report, the architect of record is listed as Adamson Associates. The construction plans show a 38-unit, “a 20-story, 172,000-square-foot property […] complete with […] multiple floors of art gallery space…” to be built on top of land that Casco acquired for $50m.
Ten days later, the Times announces that Zwirner, who has worked with Annabelle Selldorf on every other one of his galleries, is moving to a space in the building to be designed by architect Renzo Piano. Deep inside the Times story we learn that Zwirner will close one of his Chelsea spaces, the one on 19th street, after the new gallery opens.
The move is carefully presented in the Times as something instigated by Zwirner. But the details all suggest he is making a savvy business deal to get more space at an advantageous price. Rather than investing $50m in a new gallery as readers are meant to infer, Zwirner is most likely getting either a deal to be an anchor tenant or some sort of a subsidy in a location directly behind one of his current galleries.
With the success of High Line, Chelsea has seen numerous real estate projects. But the ultra-luxury new buildings must differentiate themselves from the neighborhood’s surrounding real estate stock which often out-dated, grotty or simply uninhabitable.
The Times all-but-confirms that the deal is in its nascent phase when it reports that, “The precise design has yet to be determined — Mr. Piano is in the early stages of the process.” Though the report does say the gallery will reside along with two other later tenants in separate structure from the residential tower.
Given the very early stage this project is in, it will be interesting to see if Zwirner’s gallery does indeed move to the new building in 2020 or ever. But the project does confirm what Architectural Digest says about the borrowed interest art—and now art galleries—offers to developers. “Cultivating high-quality art appeals to prospective homeowners, who often align themselves with the arts or identify as collectors,” AD says.
Landing a global gallery brand as part of your development, is just taking it to the next level.
This Is Why Art Is the New Must-Have Amenity for Leading Real-Estate Developers (Architectural Digest)
A Mega-Dealer Expands: David Zwirner Plans a New Art Gallery (The New York Times)