Changing Art: SoHo, Chelsea and the Dynamic Geography of Galleries in New York City


We examine New York’s SoHo and Chelsea districts for evidence of how art and place interact over time. More specifically, we trace the decline of New York’s SoHo as a gallery district and the concomitant rise of nearby Chelsea, concluding that such a transition cannot simply be explained, as it usually is, by rises in property rents that ‘force out’ the art. Of equal significance, and following a different trajectory, is the change in art prices — particularly for the kind of art with which these places have been in reciprocal relation. A final factor in determining neighborhood fates is how difficult or easy it is to reassemble social scenes from one place to another. We show how artifact specifics, including their shape, form and aesthetic appeal, conjoin with property markets and scene sociality to affect urban morphology.