New York City: The Warhol Economy

Do the creative industries of New York drive it more than finance, insurance and real estate? Elizabeth Currid, in The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City, argues that it does. Chapter 1 of her book:

Most students of New York see it as a center of finance and investment and understand the city’s economy as evolving from industrial production to the FIRE industries (finance, insurance, and real estate) that form its foundation today. And yet, for the better part of the twentieth century and well before, New York City has been considered the world’s authority on art and culture. Beginning with its position as the central port on the Atlantic Ocean, New York has been able to export and import culture to and from all parts of the globe. By the middle of the twentieth century, New York was the great home of the bohemian scene, beat writers, and abstract expressionists and later, to new wave and folk music, hip-hop DJs, and Bryant Park’s Fashion Week. As Ingrid Sischy, editor-in-chief of Interview magazine, remarked, “Before Andy [Warhol] died, when Andy led Interview you’d run into people who would say, ‘I came to New York because of Interview. I read it when I was in college, lonely and alienated and it made me feel not alone. I wanted to come there and be a part of that world’.” High-brow, low-brow, high culture, and street culture, New York City’s creative scene has always been the global center of artistic and cultural production.

Well, it’s New York. But what underneath that cliche´ propels the greatest urban economy in the world? New York’s cultural economy has sustained itself—despite increasing rents, cutthroat competition, the pushing out of creative people to the far corners of Queens and Philadelphia. Within its geographical boundaries are the social and economic mechanisms that allow New York to retain its dominance over other places. As the Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Lucas pointed out, great cities draw people despite all of the drawbacks of living in a densely packed, noisy, expensive metropolis, because of human beings’ desire to be around each other. It is the inherent social nature of people—and of creativity— that makes city life so important to art and culture.

You can find a video interview here.