Apartment Galleries, Continued…

December 23, 2008

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This is another little snippet from my essay on apartment galleries.  I’ve chosen to exclude the names of certain local spaces and institutions “*****,” as indicated in the essay:

***** attracts a community that largely consists of students from ***** Institute of Chicago, recapitulating the same social groups and dynamics at play within the school.  ***** is one of many art spaces scattered around Chicago that act as satellite spaces for the city’s larger cultural institutions.  Much like the spectators for museums and most commercial galleries that display works with values confirmed by the normative blessing of the institutions, spectators of spaces like ***** derive sanctioned validation from an accredited source, because of its connections to cultural institutions and the conventional professionalism of the spaces.  Even though a large number of participants in alternative culture often reject the accreditation of the institutions, a community united around dissent still creates insular networks that revolve around alternative art spaces, becoming hegemonies within the constraints of alternative culture.  These networks perpetuate the insular circulation of cultural capital within a community, and aid and abet the reinforcement of social class distinctions and artistic hierarchies, similar to the functions of institutions within the art world.
An increase of an apartment gallery’s contributions to a community’s culture or the space’s supposed aura of “cool,” raises the neighborhood’s profile.  Those who are interested in locating themselves in the culture of individuality associated with artistic production seek out these spaces, and patronize their neighborhoods.  Historically, communities oriented around cultural consumption are drawn to neighborhoods tied to the notion of artistic mythos, and cause coffee shops, restaurants, and other commercial sites to spring up nearby, accelerating gentrification of the neighborhood.  The Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago exemplifies how music and artistic development impels gentrification of a neighborhood, and attracts large-scale real estate development and commerce.
When the process of gentrification engrosses a neighborhood, this typically leads to the demise of the apartment gallery or its relocation to another neighborhood, due to the increase of rent, and the coinciding migration of its original audience and other supportive art spaces in the neighborhood. Their existence is organic, regenerating like cells of a larger body.  This cycle takes place repeatedly, from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Such is the nature of apartment galleries: the life of one apartment gallery may be ephemeral, but others continue to sprout up elsewhere.

The last part of the essay, which I’ll post next is about Green Lantern.

–Young Joon

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