For a long time, artists sort of found themselves. If you painted or collaged or mixed-media’d then you found a grungy apartment with ample, raw space that you could bend to your creative will; and, because the rent was invariably cheap, you could sustain a lifestyle selling the occasional magnum opus for rent money. With the real estate frenzy in the late 90′s, desirable (see: cheap and big) artists spaces saw rents rise geometrically and all but the Gagosian-repped (and rent controlled) survived the times. But artist communities sort organically, and eventually barrios like Red Hook, Williamsburg, and the Lower East Side saw a new generation of creatives paying whatever they could for whatever they could find.
Dustin Yellin might be trying to change all that. Highlighted in today’s New York Times, Yellin is a young sculptural artist with deep enough pockets to make a down payment on a 24,000-square-foot warehouse in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn that he wants to turn into, as told to the Times, “a kind of utopian art center.” This isn’t your hipster friend’s art collective. Mr. Yellin’s vision is more event space than artistic cooperative, and he dreams of housing not only promising aesthetes in a fellowship program but conducting symposiums and, of course, a sculpture garden.
Dustin Yellin’s desire to shape a corner of Red Hook into a an artistic frontier represents an interesting aberration in urban planning based on the sorcery of capitalism rather than administration (this type of shift—transformation-via-acquisition— isn’t all that different from the way Eli Broad transformed the Los Angeles museum scene or Tony Goldman reinvigorated SoHo, except that while they work in the 10-figure world, Mr. Yellin works in the seven. Three digits and a world apart.) Yellin considers the landscape in a place like Red Hook—bucolic, sparse, apparently raw—more of a canvas than simple quarters and, for those of us who like to see the ample intersection of art and urbanism more often, it’s a welcome piece.