Bushwick Gallery Owner Says Money Talks When It Comes to Local Art Scene

By Meredith Hoffman on January 26, 2012 10:34pm 

BUSHWICK — A local gallery owner is going to broach a subject considered dirty in some Bushwick art circles — money.

Peter Hopkins, who packed his four-month-old gallery Bogart Salon with a forum last week focusing on the flourishing new gallery scene, is now planning his second panel, about money in art.

"When capital flows into a new art area, who wins and who loses?" he said about the topic of his next event, called "Capital and its Discontents."

Hopkins' gallery, one of several located in the new building at 56 Bogart St., said the dozen galleries that have sprung up since September in his 20-square-block area have undeniable economic implications for Bushwick.

Arguably the most prestigious yet, Chelsea gallery Luhring Augustine, is opening its 10,000-square-foot exhibit space on 25 Knickerbocker Ave. in February.

"Every place art goes," he said, "development follows."

Two fiscal conservatives will serve on the panel, along with two liberals and one neutral moderator, Hopkins said, to get a diverse array of perspectives. He has not yet chosen a date for the forum.

"The art world is the most leftist democratic structure," he said. "I want to include a capitalist — a real estate venturer who says 'until I buy a building, nothing happens and all of you are unemployed.'"

Hopkins said all his frequent customers live outside of Bushwick, where his gallery sells works ranging from $100 to $15,000.

But Bushwick artist and gallery owner Deborah Brown, who spoke at the Bogart Salon's last panel, emphasized that artists often contribute to the local economy more than people think.

"Artists are often a catalyst for investment in the community, and some start businesses," said Brown, whose husband opened up an office for orthodontics and law on the ground floor of her building's studio space. She's also founded a gallery in another building she owns.

Brown said she felt the last panel already discussed art's link to economics in Bushwick, although it did not address the buying and selling of buildings in the area.

Corcoran Group senior vice president Rodolfo Lucchese,  who specializes in Brooklyn real estate, said the leasing or buying of spaces in popular Bushwick locations off the Morgan and Jefferson L train stops is challenging.

"The demand is great," he said, "but there's a lack of inventory in the area."

Lucchese said many people have come to him wanting to open new businesses and galleries in the neighborhood, but that few owners are selling their spaces or offering them for commercial use. It's been the case for about a year, he said.

"In this neighborhood, there's a boom going on," he said.

Hopkins said he's already been flooded with interest for his next panel, whereas it took months to generate interest in the first one, since he was new to the area. 

"I'm part of a process that is occurring whether we admit it or not, and all of us have to ask the same question: 'What role am I playing in this process?'" he said. "You can't not be a part of this change."

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