For the past five years, there has been much buzz about how Berlin is to artists what SoHo was in the 1980s—cheap and creative.
But this comparison is viewed unfavorably by Berliners who are in no way jealous of New York--especially these days.
What initially lured young artists to Berlin was the promise of affordable housing and a thriving artistic community. However, as everyone knows, when demand increases so does the prices, and on a recent trip to Berlin, I found that rent in the most affordable (and chic) section of East Berlin, Friedrichshain, was at this point comparable to most cosmopolitan cities. While this is a good omen for Berlin’s economy, which was stagnant compared to the rest of post cold war Germany, the question now is how this is changing Berlins creative community.
Some galleries are able to compete with newer American outposts, like the Berlin branch of LA’s Peres Projects. Others, such as the Pierogi Gallery, are choosing to open shop in nearby Leipzig, a former East German city known for producing painting ingénue Neo Rauch, and for its selection of all but deserted buildings. However, the recent influx of artists leaving Berlin for other German cities raises the question: If Berlin was the “New” New York, what will be the “New” Berlin?
As artist Sean Scully explained to Big Think, there needs to be the right mix of affordability with a youthful demographic. Possible contenders raised over the years have included Philadelphia, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, and most recently Detroit. However, the question that begs to be asked is, will we ever again see in another city the perfect storm which made New York City in the 80’s such an enticing place for young creatives? Times are changing and we shall see.