An overview of the constantly migrating New York art scene in the second half of the 20th century.
Fensterstock begins with an intriguing question that has several potential meanings: “What moves the art world?” What follows is a survey of the major dealers, curators, artists, gallery owners, journalists, entrepreneurs, real estate developers and politicians who have played a role in shaping and transforming the New York art scene as it shifts from SoHo to the East Village to Williamsburg to Chelsea and elsewhere throughout the city. The author explores some of the underlying causes for these artistic migrations, arguing that they involve more than simply increased rents. Neighborhood loyalties, artists’ sense of community, political and legal considerations, gentrification, and the broader social, civic and economic milieu all play a part. Unfortunately, Fensterstock does not devote enough attention to the artists and their work and how aesthetic sensibilities were also transformed within and by these different scenes. The author also never addresses a third possible definition of “move,” involving affect, poignancy and emotion. Instead, Fensterstock provides a litany of names: Gallery owners and the artists they represent make up the majority of the book, with some historical and cultural contextualizing that includes brief glimpses of parallels in the music industry, drug scene, and restaurant and bar culture. Although several images are included—some quite striking—more description and discussion of the art and artists would have buoyed what ultimately becomes a somewhat tedious catalog of names, dates and addresses. Some personal anecdotes are welcome but scant.
Informative for art and cultural historians, especially New York art scene insiders, but this lacks a descriptive, compelling and entertaining core.