The Impact of Art on Real Estate Development

Red Cube, Broadway, New York, NY, USA

Written by Breck Hapner

These days, although many investment categories are seeing large market volatility, developers are benefiting from aligning their ventures with artworks that enhance the value and staying-power of their holdings. This attracts buyers and raises the prices of surrounding real estate.

To be competitive in the real estate market, architects, builders, and developers are now focusing on commissioned private and public bluechip contemporary art installations. This is a prominent part of the process of designing new projects, whether for enhancing a particular luxury development, or to add appeal to the real estate of a designated area or region.

In today’s real estate developments, art is no longer an afterthought, but an integral part of the experience, becoming a standout attraction. Incorporating art has become a hot commodity used to spark current real estate valuation and emerging property revitalization. This brings in discerning buyers and tenants capable of adding enfranchisement to residential, commercial, and geographic developments.

Art resonates with high-purchasing demographics, adding significant weight to buying decisions. Developers realize that private and public art generate livable neighborhoods and meaningful spaces. These are not only profitable, but add community culture that illustrates the desirable lifestyle imparted to local residents.

30 Rockefeller Center, New York, NY, USA

Where Art and Real Estate Meet

Contemporary buyers are passionate about art, preferring symbiotically entwined real estate. This creates distinctive homes, buildings, urban areas, and public spaces that are enduring and lucrative for potential acquisition and investment. And now, more artists are also getting into the game.

How? Developers are leveraging newer technologies and industries serving the arts which have made designing and fabricating larger-scale works more attainable. This has resulted in growth and interest in the field from artists. According to Margaret Johnson, a principal at Urban Arts Project (UAP) New York, “Architects work with artists frequently – and this union can complement, expand upon, and further transform the designed and built environment – offering a place that can reflect the values of the commissioner or of the community.”

Benefiting artists, large-scale public works provide an appealing dimension, purpose and reach for their work. “For artists that are open and interested in creating bespoke works, commissions may allow them to pursue something that they haven’t had the resources, venue, or interest in exploring yet,” Johnson said. The road to large works being acquired begins with selection by developers or community agents interested in placing art in or around their properties.

The Heart Monument, Hunters Point, Queens, NY, USA

Art Makes Real Estate Attractive to Prospective Buyers

Entwining art with property ventures of all magnitudes is a global phenomenon, not restricted to single locales. Art monuments can correlate to a location’s uniqueness, enhancing it as a destination to visit, and possibly acquire investment property.

Placing artwork in public spaces to build a location’s identity and prestige for purposes such as special events can have a widespread, significant, and long-term impact. Think of the Eiffel Tower, Trevi Fountain, or even the Statue of Liberty.

For instance, earlier this year, Doha, Qatar announced a plan of unveiling monumental public art works across its city to coincide with the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) World Cup in November 2022. According to the Art Newspaper, the group of over forty public sculptures made by some of the art world’s biggest names and “homegrown talent” will be installed in various locations between Doha’s airport and the football stadium over the coming weeks.

From a more local perspective, let’s briefly consider New York, where even the mega-rich no longer live in homes with sizable lawns like the Astors or Fricks. The city has designated many green spaces for public art. This does not only benefit residential and public spaces by generating interest in the arts, but it also builds value for the whole neighborhood.

A good example is New York City’s High Line, a one-mile park that features various artworks which attract 1.3 million visitors annually. Prices for real estate near the park have shot through the roof since it was opened in 2014. When the development launched, the median home list price in its ZIP code was $474,000, according to® data. By 2021, the median price had risen to $898,400—a 46.2% increase.

New York City’s High Line. Image credit:

More recently, the shoreline along downtown Brooklyn was developed into the largest public park for New York City in over 150 years. Two public/private projects that have been featured in Brooklyn Bridge Park show how public artworks have contributed to the explosion of establishing the borough as a highly desirable real estate location.

Firstly, Deborah Kass’s YO/OY sculpture was featured on the Main Street Lawn in the park between November 2015 and August 2016. An article on Artnet News reports that Two Trees Management company, a prominent developer in the area, approached Deborah Kass to request that she create a sculpture beside the Manhattan Bridge. Kass created an “OY” painting in 2011, inspired by Ed Ruscha’s “OOF” painting, and from there expanded upon this work to make similar paintings, prints and tabletop sculptures. She told Artnet News that she thought her Brooklyn Bridge Park offer was a good opportunity to display a massive YO/OY sculpture. It reads “YO” when one looks at it from one direction, and “OY” when one looks at it from the opposite side. Now, her monumental sculpture graces the Brooklyn Museum’s entrance, and has become an identifying symbol for the borough.

Image credit: Elisabeth Berstein

Secondly, in 2018, as the Brooklyn Bridge Park neared its completion, its neighboring public space, The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, presented a monumental sculpture of Pablo Picasso, ten feet tall, mowing the lawn. The sculpture was originally part of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France. According to the artist, Elliott Arkin, the idea behind exhibiting the work on the waterfront was to bring awareness to the initiative’s mission of continuing to develop the Brooklyn shoreline as a single, large environmental public space.

“In the context of placing the monumental work against the skyline of Manhattan, the sculpture took on an advocacy for devotional art-like passion and care in the way we shape our environment,” Arkin said. “I thought Picasso would be the most recognizable to the public, as the work was not about Picasso but an iconic sculptural representation of an artist.”

And recognizable it was. Reuters contacted Arkin about running a story on the piece for the New York local market, and no one could have imagined how much world attention the work triggered. Stories about “Picasso mowing the grass” on the New York City waterfront appeared in papers and news broadcasts around the world, from Hungary, Denmark, and France to TASS television, Russia’s major state-owned news agency. The 10’ Picasso was an edition of two, with one now owned by a board member of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The success of Brooklyn’s waterfront development and the demand for real estate in the area demonstrate the impact and contribution made by including public art projects. Both projects have brought untold thousands of prospective buyers into the region. Nearby real estate prices and further development in the vicinity have soared. There is no doubt public art adds value to any property, neighborhood, or city.

Beyond increasing property values, community artworks contribute to tripling area buying, leasing, renting, and retention rates. Art enhances real estate, connecting the community to culture while attracting new businesses, which provide attractive economic opportunities.

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