As any observer of urban renewal knows, artists have a long track record
of cultivating an energy that often evolves a place into a true experience,
generating creative spaces and an innovative atmosphere that locals and
visitors can enjoy. These cities, taken from “world’s best” lists in
publications such as Sherman’s Travel and American Style, have benefited from
such a thriving eco-system and are teeming with art and
After the Cold War ended in 1989, artists colonised neighbourhoods such as
Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg in eastern Berlin, drawn by the inexpensive rent and enormous,
high-ceilinged apartments found in 19th-century buildings and
unused department stores. Galleries soon followed and then
so did the collectors. Now Berlin bohemians – who would have sneered at a
velvet rope – crowd hotspots such as Mitte’s Soho House Berlin, where emerging artists may not be able to afford apartments near contemporary
art galleries such as Kunst-Werke anymore. In the past five or six
years, many galleries have migrated to open on Potsdamer Strasse in western
Berlin, a street lined with antiques and art dealers before World War II.
But across the city, there is still room for renovation. The Johann Konig Gallery, for example, will move in April to St Agnes, a Brutalist-style church
built in the 1960s in the trendy Kreuzberg neighbourhood, not far from the Berlinische Galerie. In Mitte, a former Jewish girls school and deportation centre during
WWII is now a complex of galleries and cafes – including the Michael Fuchs Galerie and EIGEN + ART
– that fully encompasses its history while creating the present. As the third
most-visited European capital after London and Paris, Berlin is still a place
where artists come to create their dreams.
The majority of residents in Berlin – nearly 85% – rent, and housing costs
have risen more quickly than in other German cities. However, prices are
still far lower than in other major Western European cities, including Hamburg,
Brussels and Vienna. “There are many advantages to renting,” said Alexander
Korte, founder of BerlinInvestment.com, an estate agency specialising in
foreign buyers. “The laws are pro-renter and the landlords can’t raise the rent
just as they wish.” A 70sqm flat can rent for around 600 euros a month in
neighbourhoods such as Kreuzberg or the gentrifying Friedrichschain, while
Mitte is seeing rents reach 2,000 euros a month.
But buyers are also flocking to Berlin since apartments and houses are
cheap for a major European capital. The property market has seen an increase in
residential prices of more than 32% since 2007 and luxury developments and conversions
are in demand. The rise in price is fuelled by Spanish, Italian Russian,
British and French investors, as well as Germans, who consider Berlin a bargain
and want a safe and inexpensive place for their euros. Currently, the average
housing price in Berlin is 2,000 euros per square metre.
Home to Art Basel, the most important contemporary art fair in the world, this
northern Switzerland city on the border with France and Germany has a cultural impact
that far outweighs Basel’s actual size. The Kunstmuseum Basel, the oldest museum in Switzerland, houses European masterworks that
span from Holbein to Picasso, and Schauleger,
a museum and institute designed by hometown duo Herzog & de Meuron, contains
the stupendous Emmanuel Hoffman Foundation collection of more than 400 modern
masterpieces from the likes of Cindy Sherman and Richard Tuttle. In the St
Johann neighbourhood, the pharmaceutical giant Novartis has a campus with 17 buildings either built or
under construction from a star lineup of the most famous architects in the
world, such as Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Rem Koolhaas and of course, Herzog &
de Meuron. “For a
relatively small town, Basel has an incomparably high amount of quality
cultural events,” said Davy
Hess, managing director at Engel & Völkers Basel.
The housing market has also been very robust
for the past four years, in part because of low interest rates and the large
number of foreigners relocating to the city. “The market is a seller’s market
and demand is much higher than supply,” Hess explained. The most popular districts include
the residential St Alban quarter near the Old Town and the leafy Gellertquartier
near the Rhine River. “These areas are the most charming areas in Basel, with
townhouses and villas from the early 1900s,” Hess said. Farther out, desirable
areas include the districts of Bruderholz and Binningen, located south of the
Old Town; the municipality of Riehen across the Rhine; as well as the village
of Arlesheim, south of the city. Apartment prices across Basel range from
4,000 Swiss francs per square metre for an average property to 12,000 Swiss
francs per square metre for a prime location such as St Alban. House prices across
the city range from 800,000 Swiss francs per square metre to 3.4 million Swiss
francs per square metre. A two-bedroom flat in the Gellertquartier rents around
1,500 to 2,500 Swiss francs a month.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong’s flowering art scene and the recent boom of the Chinese and
Asian art market has attracted major international galleries to the city, such
as Gagosian, Pearl Lam, White Cube and soon Lehmann Maupin, all in the Central neighbourhood. Art Basel is also holding its first Asian fair here from 23 to
26 May, taking over for the local ART HK fair. And across the harbour, construction
of the West Kowloon Cultural District is
set to begin this year with the first phase completed by 2020. The district will
cover an area of 100 acres (the master plan was designed by Foster + Partners)
and contain 17 cultural and performing arts venues, including the Xiqu Centre,
designed specifically for Chinese opera, and M+, a museum of visual culture. In
addition, a high-speed rail to Shanghai and Beijing will depart from the district.
as hip Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, west of Central, and industrial Wong Chuk
Hang on the south side of Hong Kong Island have seen an influx of gallerists,
artists and chefs. “These areas have been attractive because of improvements in
public transport, such as the extension of the MTR,” said Chris Liem, owner of Engel &
Völkers Hong Kong. New buildings, such as Centre Stage in Sheung Wan and Island Crest in Sai Ying Pun, have proved extremely popular
with residents who want to be near the new restaurants, cafes and shops in
these areas, but still have easy access to Central.
prices are dependent on the location, age and quality of the building,” Liem said.
“But generally rent on a 750sqft apartment on Hong Kong Island is around 35 Hong
Kong dollars per square foot.” Buyers can expect to pay around 12,000 Hong
Kong dollars per square foot for a similar flat.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
This city in the southwestern United States has been closely associated with
artists since the early 20th Century, when painters began to move
here, drawn by the area’s vivid desert beauty and indigenous and Hispanic
cultures. A Unesco Creative City since 2005, Santa Fe has more than 250 art
galleries and numerous museums, nearly half of which are clustered along Canyon Road.
The most visited and high profile museum is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which contains more than 3,000 pieces of the avant-garde artist’s
work. O’Keeffe is closely associated with the landscapes and colours around
Santa Fe, a place where she spent much of her adult life.
About 70 miles north, the city of Taos also has a long history as an
art colony, and 60 miles to the south Albuquerque is home to a number of
galleries near Old Town Plaza and Nob Hill.
The real estate market has
slowed slightly, but Santa Fe’s built-in reputation as a holiday spot has been
a buffer. “Since we are considered a resort destination, we still have a market
for investors, second-home buyers and retirees,” said Victoria Murphy,
president of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors.
The city has a homogenous
look, with many houses made from adobe and built in the traditional Pueblo, Territorial and Spanish styles. Areas
near downtown and Santa Fe Plaza, a National Historic Landmark,
are popular, including the Historic Eastside and South Capitol neighbourhoods,
east and south of the plaza. The median two-bedroom house price in these areas
is $425,000 and the average house rental is around $1,200 to $1,500 a month.
Art is even part of the real estate game, in an annual February event called Art Feast,
where galleries stage selected houses on the market with works from artists
they represent. “The galleries re-hang paintings and provide sculptures for the
homes,” said Murphy. “And on Saturday and Sunday they are open to the public.”
San Miguel de Allende,
San Miguel, located about 300km north of Mexico City, attracts
US retirees, hippies, snowbirds, artists, painters and sculptors to its spicy-coloured,
17th- and 18th-century Colonial architecture and temperate climate. The city is a Unesco World Heritage
Site; has a number of art schools, including the Instituto Allende which was founded by American Stirling Dickinson in the 1940s; and numerous
galleries clustered along the historic town centre’s cobblestone streets
showcase everything from traditional Mexican folk art to contemporary
photography and sculpture.
“We have a lively arts scene, plus film and music festivals and a vital
international community,” said Joanie Barcal, owner of Allende Properties
estate agents. The market has rebounded in the past six months after the US and
Mexico national elections and increased Mexican investment. The Historic Centro,
with its colonial houses, is the most desirable area to be in, but also the most
expensive, so nearby neighbourhoods such as popular Guadiana, neighbouring Ojo
de Agua, colonial San Antonio and quiet Guadalupe are also very sought after. “The
range of prices is quite broad in these neighbourhoods and can go from $150,000
to $1 million or higher,” explained Barcal. A one-bedroom apartment rents for
around $500 a month.