Art Market
How the Urban Elite and Experience-Hungry Millennials Made Art a Staple of Luxury Real Estate
By Casey Lesser
Jul 12, 2017 6:02 pm
Work by Matthew Harding. Courtesy of Prive Island.

Work by Matthew Harding. Courtesy of Prive Island.

Later this summer, luxury rentals at the 33-story residential tower One Hudson Yards, located in the heart of New York’s up-and-coming neighborhood near the Hudson River, will hit the market. Developed by Related Companies, with rents starting at $5,095 for a one-bedroom, its impressive amenities include a bowling alley, an 82-foot lap pool, and a half-size basketball court. But what distinguishes it from competitors is its gem of an art collection.

“It’s not just picking up things and throwing them against the wall,” said art adviser and actor Alexander DiPersia, who curated the common spaces with works by emerging artists including Matthew Chambers, Przemek Pyszczek, Sayre Gomez, and Michael Phelan. “It’s a long, thought-out process.”

The carefully chosen art collection of One Hudson Yards is one example of art’s increasing importance in the high-end, multi-family real estate market, as developers vie for the attention and housing budgets of the art-loving wealthy along with Instagram-obsessed, experience-hungry Millennials.

Works by Jeff Koons. Courtesy of Oceana Bal Harbour.

Works by Jeff Koons. Courtesy of Oceana Bal Harbour.

At One Hudson Yards, DiPersia and architect Andre Kikoski were given profiles of the desired client base—from an intense businessman to a young family recently relocated from California—to guide their art selections, and to keep in mind the person who would be attracted to this art.

“It’s basically the people who live a life without limitation,” Kikoski explains. “They have multiple homes, in multiple places, they wear the best clothes, drive the coolest cars, collect art themselves, some of them have their own chefs. It’s people who don’t want to be bothered with the time and expense of renovation or ownership.”

So how does that translate into art? In the end, DiPersia used his low six-figure budget to acquire 11 works, primarily abstract paintings by reputable young artists, which decorate areas including the lobby, corridors, and other common spaces.

Works by Hannah Whitaker. Courtesy of Camden, Los Angeles.

Works by Hannah Whitaker. Courtesy of Camden, Los Angeles.

That’s the least a building can offer to wealthy residents who are increasingly likely to be art-savvy, said Eduardo Costantini, a Buenos Aires-based developer and art collector who founded the city’s Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA).

“Today’s affluent homeowners are well-traveled, cultured, and appreciate fine art more than ever—many of them are art collectors in their own right,” he said. That raises the bar for what will impress them and their friends.  

Last year, during Art Basel in Miami Beach, Costantini inaugurated Oceana Bal Harbour, with two of his own large-scale Jeff Koons sculptures (Seated Ballerina, 2010–15, and Pluto and Proserpina, 2010–13, which was included in the artist’s 2014 Whitney retrospective) as its crown jewels. The condominium’s multi-million-dollar collection also includes works by Callum Innes, Jorge Méndez Blake, and Taryn Simon, among others.

Owners there, who shell out between $3 million and $30 million for a home, enjoy more than just unfettered access to and the caché of living with two enormous Koons sculptures. They’re also part-owners of the complex’s art collection, a shared asset of the property.

Courtesy of Prive Island.

Courtesy of Prive Island.

For other developers working on a smaller scale, on rental properties, or who just don’t have a few Koons sculptures handy, a more feasible route is to recruit advisors and experts to curate art programs or work with artists directly to commission new, site-specific work.

The L.A.-based art adviser Carol Lee Brosseau has built her own advisory company around the value that art drives to real estate properties and hotels, particularly targeting those millennial audiences. She emphasizes to clients art’s ability to generate buzz, inspire social media promotion from residents and visitors, and set the stage for experiential events at their properties.

Brosseau was recently recruited by Houston-based developer Camden Property Trust to curate the art collection for the Camden Hollywood, a luxury rental property off Sunset Boulevard. With rents ranging from $2,100 for a studio to $10,000 for a penthouse, and amenities including an outdoor kitchen, a dog den, a yoga yard, and an art studio, the property targeted young consumers looking for a “social atmosphere.”

With a budget upwards of $200,000, she put together a collection that draws on Hollywood glamour and history, but also embraces the local contemporary art scene. Working with L.A. artists and galleries (including works commissioned specifically for the project), she acquired works by artists including Charlie Rubin, Shawn Hummel, Julian Wasser, David Drebin, Hannah Whitaker, and Melanie Willhide.

Those with the means, but not the know-how, will be well-served at Privé at Island Estates, a condominium located on Miami’s last buildable private island, whose amenities include an in-house art consultant to work with residents in developing their own collections. The consultant, New York-based art adviser Kipton Cronkite, also commissioned works for the condo by artists Ross Bleckner and Shay Kun, and the property’s interior designer Julia Chi commissioned a work by Matthew Harding.

Photo by Tyson Reist. Courtesy of Related Realty.

Photo by Tyson Reist. Courtesy of Related Realty.

Thomaï Serdari, a strategist in luxury marketing and branding and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said the trend toward art collections in luxury developments was driven by millennials’ insatiable appetite for experiences.

“Most young people who are interested in buying these new developments are also very much interested in experiences, and the art world is one of those experiences,” she said, including people who are not yet collectors, “but people who want to be in the know.”

But she suggested that luxury developers’ investments in art collections can be distractions from the poor design and quality of individual apartment units, which she said she is seeing more frequently as developers focus further on the common spaces of buildings. But Dan Choi, an architect, developer, and adjunct professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said art collections rarely come at the expense of high-quality design elements, simply because the field is too competitive and the customers too discerning.

Still, Serdari wondered if the art trend could one day pass, as the newly wealthy find alternative modes of conspicuous consumption and the real estate market rushed to cater to whatever comes next.

“I think it is a trend of the moment,” Serdari said. “They borrow cultural capital until the next new cultural capital is in. Maybe it’s going to the moon. Then, they will stop investing in art and go to the moon.”


Casey Lesser is an Editor at Artsy.