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Trend Report NYC: The Artful Lodger

Residential developers put artworks in plain view to entice aesthete-buyers

Shortly after purchasing a 19th-century printing plant on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street in 2012, developer Roy Stillman commissioned Cuban American artist José Parlá to create a painting for the planned 20-unit condominium building’s sales center. And French artist Christophe Côme was asked to design a wall of glass rondels for the luxury loft’s lobby. Such efforts were apparently appreciated by art-dealer Alberto Mugrabi, who closed on an $18.5 million triplex there in December. 

As the worlds of high-finance, real estate and art become ever more intertwined, many developers are using collaborations with artists to woo wealthy buyers. When JDS Development Group wanted to highlight the materials used in its Park Slope condo Baltic, it enlisted artist Anna Karlin to make huge sculptures from walnut, golden-gray brick and brushed bronze. “When you see these beautiful geometric sculptures, you appreciate the materials in a new way,” says Marci Clark, a JDS director.

DDG Partners, which in 2012 wrapped its Meatpacking District condo at 345 West 14th Street in an enormous print of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s “Yellow Trees,” is now “working with artists on most of our projects,” says CEO Joe McMillian, who is also commissioning photographs of quarries by Jacqueline Hassink for 18 Warren, as well as a sculpture by Jan Hooss and a painting by museum diorama artist Sean Murtha for 180 East 88th Street.

That few pieces of art share the longevity of the buildings they adorn—the Kusama wrap lasted only 10 weeks—doesn’t seem to be a hindrance to finding collaborators, and sometimes yields surprising results. Murals by Mike Perry on a construction fence enclosing Brooklyn’s 550 Vanderbilt have escaped graffiti. “It’s a real testament to the murals,” says developer Adam Greene, “that no one’s tagged them.”

Photo: Sculpture by Anna Karlin for Brooklyn’s Baltic.