Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Observations on Art 3.5

To me Art Week has become another of those unofficial indicators that spring is almost here. It also seems to be the opening of the warmer weather tourist season with people wandering and exploring more and not just coming to the city to shop or go to the theatre. In this current political world where we debate even emergency aid visitors may be in for a surprise when the get here. Sandy was the story for a long time but as with everything it passed as other things made headlines. Everybody knows, or should know, that Staten Island and the beach areas of Brooklyn are still devastated but even in Manhattan some areas have yet to recover. Some may never again be what they were.

One of New York main gallery districts is in Chelsea along the Hudson River. During the worst of the storm almost every gallery south and west of 21st street was flooded and parts of the area were under twenty feet of water. Galleries on the ground floors of buildings were wiped out with thousands of art works destroyed and Reuters now estimates insurance claims for just art will reach $500 million. One totally unforeseen problem is who is responsible for an art work that was paid for by a collector but never picked up. Many of Chelsea's galleries have reopened, some just last week, but whether the district remains as it was is an open question. Galleries like Gargosian and Zwirner can afford to move their inventory at a moments notice, most can't, and with a future of rising sea levels the best option is probably to move the galleries to higher ground. Global warming comes to the art world.

Tourists walking or riding through the gallery districts will have no clue of the turmoil still just under the surface so they probably will be in wonder of the recovery. A visit to the South Street Seaport, another tourist favorite, will probably change their minds.

We decided to do a bit of wandering Sunday and eventually got to the Seaport. To be honest the area looks like it was visited by the zombie apocalypse. By that I mean on fist look it seems fine but look a little closer and something is missing, people. It's eerie to walk down the street between buildings that look just as they did before Sandy hit down to masking tape on the windows and locks on the doors. While the museum and piers are open a majority of the shops and restaurants remain closed months after the storm. Some buildings in the area still have no ll phone service or internet because Verizon's underground cables were destroyed as the East River moved to the west.

Granted the seaport area is a warm weather spot, and it normally is quiet in the winter, but it just seems so dead for lack of a better word. I read somewhere that businesses in the area are having trouble negotiating their leases with property owners who want to charge higher rents to people that lost everything. Other tenants, principally on Front Street, have been told their buildings wont reopen until spring or even early summer. Many businesses will probably move elsewhere, the streets a few blocks off the river seem fine, and wait for the rising river to make the shops waterfront again.

When all is said and done the Seaport will probably be a major tourist spot again but of a different kind. A tourist spot to remind people of what once was before super storms and rising sea levels became the norm or just a reminder of the havoc those storms can cause.

If I seem climate cynical sometimes blame my brother, he fills me with dread at times.

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