In New Condos, Art Is Now a Crucial Part of the Deal

As Oren Evenhar, chief executive of Evenhar Development and Pine Builders, which is developing the building, said: “It’s a little something that reminds you you’re in Greenpoint. This happens to be a very fun neighborhood that appreciates art, and we wanted to do something that reflects that.”

Greenpoint isn’t the only neighborhood getting a blast of developer-commissioned art. New residential developments across the city are installing significant works by artists both emerging and established in outdoor plazas, lobbies, common spaces and model units. Where developers previously battled over big-name architects and all-out amenity spaces, from pet spas to hamams, many are now turning their attention to outsize art projects.

At 56 Leonard, the condo building designed by Herzog & de Meuron that resembles a teetering stack of boxes, a 20-foot-tall, nearly 40-ton polished stainless steel blob by Anish Kapoor (who recently bought an apartment in the building) will be squished between the sidewalk and overhanging second floor this fall. When the project started, “10 years ago, I thought we were pioneers to incorporate an artist into the design,” said Izak Senbahar, president of the Alexico Group, which is developing the building. “But since then, it has become a little more common.”


A rendering of 56 Leonard, the condo building designed by Herzog & de Meuron that resembles a stack of boxes, a 20-foot-tall, nearly 40-ton polished stainless steel blob by Anish Kapoor.

Alexico Group/Herzog & de Meuron

Commissioning a major work of art doesn’t come cheap, Mr. Senbahar said, admitting that the cost was in eight figures. But “I am in the business of creating a wow factor,” he added. “Is there a commercial side to it? Yes. We’re all in the business of designing a product that will resonate with buyers.”

At Sky, a 1,175-unit rental building at 605 West 42nd Street, the Moinian Group opened Sky Art last month, a temporary gallery in a connected 10,000-square-foot street-level retail space at 555 11th Avenue. Programmed in partnership with the exhibition producers Nicolai and Michael Frahm, it is presenting a major component of “Ugo Rondinone: I ♥ John Giorno,” a sprawling exhibition taking place in 13 locations across Manhattan, including the New Museum, High Line and Hunter College Art Galleries.

Sky also has a collection of works by blue-chip artists scattered throughout its public areas, including a bronze polka-dot pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama out front and works by Sol LeWitt and Günther Förg inside.

“We wanted to create more excitement for the project and the neighborhood,” said Mitchell Moinian, whose family developed the building. “We will always, as a family and a company, be creating art spectacles and activations.”

He continued: “We have several buildings under development right now in Manhattan. This is a foreshadowing of the great art initiatives to come.”

Shaun Osher, the chief executive of the real estate company CORE, said he now routinely advises developers of new buildings to invest in art for their lobbies: “We’ve started recommending, more and more, to have really great pieces of art. It’s the tone-setter and the first impression.”

And compared with the cost of building in New York, showstopping art is a relatively minor expense. “They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars putting up a building,” he said. “The lobby is the last place they should be value-engineering.”

At 42 Crosby Street, a building designed by Selldorf Architects, where CORE is responsible for sales and marketing, the development company Atlas Capital Group commissioned the artist Paula Hayes to create two planted terrariumlike front windows: one with an illuminated Gazing Globe filled with silicone and electrical parts from her 2015 exhibition in Madison Square Park, the other with a cast-acrylic resin Trapeze chandelier.

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