Architects have been consistently intrigued by the possibility of designing spaces to house artwork. This is in large part because of the coevolution of art and architecture and, in particular, the overlap between the two fields during the Renaissance. The invention of perspective drawing propelled innovation by artists and architects. As this occurred, new architectural typologies were solidified – the urban palazzo and rural villa – that created new space for artworks to be created. In particular, the vast white plaster walls of these structures created an opportunity for frescos while the halls and large rooms created space for new and ancient sculptures to be displayed. As industries and trade evolved, oil paint and linen canvas began to present a viable options for the creation of pictures. The result was a new capacity to move artworks from one location to another.
In realizing this liberation of the fresco from the wall and coupled with the growing interest in the ancient world in collecting in general, the broader question of where to display and store artwork came to the fore. Collectors created curiosity cabinets for small treasures, halls devoted to hanging artworks, and private galleries (fig. 1). The latter evolved amidst royal patronage in countries throughout Europe. These galleries were ultimately made public after the abolition or reorganization of the monarchy and its role in governing and society more broadly (fig. 2). As this occurred, a wide range of royal and other elite individuals continued to collect artwork at an increasing rate. This led to the establishment of a range of schools that evolved from the ateliers of artists and that were dedicated to cultivating artistic talent. It also led to a more formalized market for art that now included galleries and art dealers as an intermediary between artist and collector.
The formalization and growth of the art market led to a formalization of the space in which the market existed as well as an architecture associated with this space. On one hand, it led to buildings for instructing artists that – in the case of the Ecole de Beaux Arts and the Bauhaus – defined architectural styles that spread around the world – defining how we construct and relate to space very broadly. On the other hand, this formalization led to a wide range of smaller spaces that artists and gallery owners adapted to meet the specific demands of producing and selling art. In the process, collectors and museums arose with specific lighting and spatial configurations that were conducive to displaying art in an era before buildings were fully electrified.
In what follows, we will look at how the space in which this market exists – from studios to galleries, private homes, storage units, and museums – has evolved and exists today. In each case, we will explore the fundamental role that each plays in the market in terms of production, display, storage, and circulation. We will also look at the support services – ranging from framing and critical commentary to appropriate climate and conservation – that are required to make these spaces function for art and the market. In the process, these spaces take on an identity that informs the image of these spaces for the world beyond their walls. Such an image carries a meaning that is informed by both the architecture of the space as well as the content of the art and artist that is produced or exists within that space. Finally, we will look at the cost of these spaces both in terms of real estate as well as construction and operations. This will help us to make some sense of the network of spaces with widely varying cost that range from studios in low-rent and sometimes decaying urban neighborhoods to the most expensive and highly refined spaces that exist on earth. In doing so, we will try and makes sense of how access, artists, collectors, curators, policy, and governments help to define this market and fuel this striation.
Before looking at the different types of spaces that comprise the art world and support the art market, it is important to briefly outline the relationship between art and the space in which it is produced and encountered. Art both exists in space and is a representation of things, people, feelings, and ideas that might be encountered in space or, sometimes, merely conceived in the mind. It can define the expanse of entire walls or exist as an intimate framed moment. Sculptural work can exist free from the wall within the interior of the space and artwork that exists within a book can be encountered on a table. In some cases, the artwork might seek to actively intervene in the architecture, structure of the building, or broader landscape. In still others, it might alter the lighting conditions or general atmosphere in order to change how space is encountered and perceived.
While other objects and atmospheres that we encounter tell us what a space is used for, contemporary art that we encounter does no such thing. It is without direct purpose or usefulness and can exist anywhere as a compliment to another program. This certainly was not always the case. Many artworks such as frescoes, sculptures, carvings, and sculptures existed in order to convey a narrative to those who encountered them (fig. 3). Finding such an artwork, moreover, very clearly indicated the purpose of the space. These elements were always carefully integrated with the broader architecture. This relationship, however, has changed dramatically during the era of secularization and decoupling of art, ideology, and politics in an era that sees such alliances as little more than producing propaganda. Instead, artwork has become an invitation to contemplate, experience, learn, understand, and elevate. While not making any claim to truth, it does create opportunities to see the world in a new light, feel a deep connection to something we share in common, and offer some form of inspiration and hope that might help us to continue through an otherwise banal existence (fig. 4).
Contemporary art, of course, does not always play such an elevated role in shaping our space and existence. Artworks can just as easily be used to decorate interiors in much the same way that carpeting or curtains might do. At the same time, the price paid for an artwork, the value of that artwork to a collector, and the role it plays within an artist’s career can also drive the reason why an artwork is displayed. Further, the role of the artwork as an financial asset within a collector’s broader portfolio can anchor its purpose. Such uses – or some might say abuses – of the artwork serve to align it with the realm of exchangeable goods and services. In so doing, it may elevate the price in the short-term, but runs the risk of removing the aura that surrounds the work if the meaning behind the artwork is not cultivated. This can certainly be seen in so many 19th Century Master Prints that were traded frequently in the auction market, but have since fallen out of favor – resulting in a steep decline in their prices.
Beyond the functional role of the artwork, it plays a very specific role in how space operates and even, in some cases, in producing space. While artwork can be laid haphazardly within a space the way one might throw a coat onto a couch upon entering a room, it is more often carefully placed. Its specific location is chosen based upon its relationship to the size of the room, furniture, function, and other artwork. The space is carefully measured and precautions are taken to ensure that it can be safely hung or installed. Once the space for the artwork is prepared and the work is installed, lighting is configured to optimize the experience and measures are taken to ensure that the artwork will not be damaged over the time it spends in this location. Considerable power over the inhabitant of space can result from such placement that, in turn, can contribute to the power, authority, and influence of an institution.
While this process often occurs after a space has already been designed and built, the implications that each aspect has for the surrounding architecture are considerable. Whether it is framing, lighting, climate, or the atmosphere that an artwork creates through its size, shape, color, subject, and materiality, the designer can play a significant role in enhancing or detracting from the artwork. In many cases, the architect has opted for a rather neutral approach that creates maximum flexibility for different types of artworks that might be installed in the future. Doing so, however, misses significant opportunities for the art and architecture to interact and enhance one another in a manner similar to what occurred during the Renaissance. In what follows, we will look at the different spaces in which artwork is encountered and consider steps that the architect might take to more fully valorize and collaborate with artwork. Finally, we will look at how all of these spaces might be designed to work together rather than remain conceived in isolation.
There are a wide range of types of spaces that artists use to make art. The specific type tends to be aligned with the type of artwork being made, the city in which the artwork is being made, and the stage of an artist’s career. At the most fundamental level, the artist requires little more than room to draw, take a photograph, or open a laptop computer. Although the most established artists may elect to commission the creation of a new building as their studio space, the majority of artists do not have the financial resources to do so. In some cases, existing buildings are renovated to accommodate specific desires of the artist that will help support the creation of their specific artwork (fig. 5).
Over the course of the second half of the 20th century, many artists set up studios in buildings that were originally used for an industrial purpose. These buildings were often in sections of the city that were undergoing a transformation as manufacturing shifted from the center of cities to the periphery and overseas. In many cases, these building could be rented for a minimal sum and could also be used to accommodate a space in which to live. Signs bearing “Artist In Residence” began to appear to let firefighters know that the building was inhabited should a fire break out – as was all too common. These spaces provided flexible open spaces – often with access to a freight elevator to assist in loading and unloading materials and finished artworks – that could accommodate large artworks and artworks that drew increasingly on industrial processes. As the same time, the presence of artists in these decaying neighborhoods gave them a new sense of life (fig. 6).
Coupled with other socio-economic trends, these neighborhoods ultimately emerged as some of the most desirable places in the city to live. This trend led many of the artists who helped revitalize the neighborhoods to move to more affordable sections of the city. This process gradually led to a decentralization of artists throughout the city to the point where some artists left the city altogether or moved to more affordable cities that retained a certain level of grit. These communities offered artists affordable space in which to work and perhaps inspiration stemming from the urban condition itself. Such inspiration might be tied to the struggles that these urban communities face in addressing disinvestment, poverty, lack of employment, and urban decay. With political leaders offering few solutions, artists have been given the opportunity to apply their creative practice to helping to develop sustainable communities.
At the same time, it can be difficult to generalize the space in which artists produce their work. There are a wide array of artists who maintain their practice in their home, in rural communities, and in the most expensive urban environments. Inspiration for these artists may come from nature, politics, social history, personal identity, travel, among many other things. In a way, this broad range of production locations and areas of focus is possible because of digital technologies that support greater community and connectivity to markets that still remain somewhat centralized in globally connected hubs and fair. What really matters is creating a space in which to practice – that in many cases may not even be a fixed studio – that is suited to the specific artwork that the given artist is interested in creating.
As urban centers have become more expensive and artists have been forced to look for more affordable places in which to produce work, galleries have responded in two manners. On one hand, high-end galleries that hope to sell to the new residents driving up prices of communities that once were home to artists have stayed in those areas to be close to their clientele. On the other hand, more experimental galleries, or those galleries representing emerging artists, have opened in communities that might be closer to where the artists they represent are producing their work.
As this occurs, the higher end galleries tend to maintain spaces that look similar to the homes of their clients while galleries serving emerging artists may present art in a space more akin to the studios of artists or in apartments that are an extension of their own homes. This translates to spaces that, on one hand, draw upon the legacy of the anaesthetized white cube that allows curators to present artwork in a “neutral” setting and, on the other hand, spaces that draw upon the tradition of adaptive reuse (fig. 7). These spaces might incorporate more of the historic character without a full renovation and, as a result, might give the artist an opportunity to present art in such a way that it plays off the specific nature of the site. In either case, these galleries often operate in existing structures and seek out spaces with wall and floor space that is conducive to presenting the specific type of artwork of the artists they represent. In doing so, they generally retrofit the space with lighting and signage to showcase the work and to make the gallery visible to those passing by. At the same time, they have dedicated space for back of house activities such as storage, clerical work, and entertaining clients. In the process, they create a quasi-domestic space that mirrors their own preferences as well as making an appeal to the specific artists and clientele they hope to attract.
In some exceptional cases, galleries have commissioned entirely new buildings to present artwork. The highest end galleries may choose to invest excess capital in acquiring the real estate in which they present the art they sell. They may go beyond simply retrofitting an existing building and, instead, commission an architect to create a unique space. Doing so can help to further the identity of the gallery as well as its capacity to present specific types and scales of artwork. In the process, unique forms can be developed that incorporate innovative use of light, color, material, and organization that advance the architectural discourse. This is particularly true because these spaces lack the pressure placed on form and organization by programs with more specific performative and even legal requirements. This result can be some of the most compelling spaces that one will ever encounter (figs. 8 and 9).
The auction house is a space through which art passes in a rather transient manner. They sell a wide range of artwork at different price points. Typologically, they are an extension of the gallery. However, given that they represent such a range of artists and are not forced to distinguish themselves amidst hundreds if not thousands of galleries, they generally have taken on a more generic character. This is particularly true of the highest end auction houses that have tended to lean towards a corporate style that causes them to appear closer to a law firm or bank than an avant-garde gallery or collector’s home.
As the three major high-end auction houses have grown more competitive with each other, as the value of artworks has risen, and as financing of art and auctions has become increasingly common, auction houses have begun to invest considerably more in their physical space. In doing so, they have hired some of the most sought after architects. In the case of the architects with a reputation for cutting edge design, the auction houses have incorporated an edgy forward looking identity into their historically conservative brand. The result is an institutional image that might begin to compete with the primary market as major artist choose to sell their art directly to the consumer via auction rather than debuting their art via a gallery (fig. 10 and 11).
Art fairs have transformed the way that the art market functions. Beginning in the years following World War II – some might argue to launder black money – they have grown to become centralized places occurring in different cities at designated points during the year where collectors can shop for art. They bring together a wide range of galleries under what is often an expansive convention center roof. The galleries occupy standardized booths modeled off of the white cube gallery. This standardized playing field is then customized by each of the galleries to help to reflect their own brand and stand out amidst the large number of galleries present. Location is particularly important in this quest for distinction. It is important to be on a central axis and in close proximity to either the entrance or VIP lounges.
At the same time, the highly competitive nature of the art fair calls upon galleries to carefully select the art that they will show. They are increasingly mandated to present entirely new bodies of work by artists who are themselves having a moment in their career that is generating considerable international buzz. Drawing on this international recognition of the artists is essential because of the global nature of these fairs and their clientele. It is also essential because of the high financial stakes associated with presenting at fairs. The cost of a booth is considerable as is the cost of installing and de-installing the show. As a result, the gallery owner must carefully weigh the benefits and challenges of presenting to a much larger and educated audience.
The architecture of the fair goes well beyond the limits of the often banal warehouses in which artwork is presented (fig. 12 and 13). It encompasses the private dinners, parties, and adjacent exhibits that are arranged to woo collectors. The city in which the fair occurs becomes a significant party where the revelry, intoxication, and dancing often runs the risk of eclipsing the purpose of the fair to begin with. The art is, in the process, turned into a prop for a broader theater. Collecting the art becomes a ticket to gain access to an elite space populated by celebrities and influencers who might, in turn, be able to help advance one’s interests. In this sense, art becomes a tool used to inflate a sphere where influence and power operate with the ultimate effect of marginalizing or even negating the artwork and whatever purpose and meaning it might have beyond this inflation.
Biennials play a unique role within the world of art. Historically, they have been associated with specific cities and specific venues within those cities. Each edition offers a chance for artists and curators to engage the legacy of past shows while also engaging the specific architecture of the space where the biennial has been presented. This often occurs in a strictly non-commercial context. While the visitor may pay an entry fee, the goal is not to acquire the artwork. Instead, the goal is to appreciate the idea behind the artwork. In theory, anyone with the money to buy a ticket can access the artwork (fig. 14).
As the market for art has grown, so too has the number of biennials. These newer biennials have defined their own rules and ways of presenting artwork. They generally occur in large urban centers and are generally organized in relationship to the history and current state of the city. They often explore themes that are important to those living in the city as well as how that city might relate to the broader artworld and world in general. In doing so, they might seek to call attention to new artists and, in particular, artists working outside the western art market.
The proliferation of biennials around the world at a moment when the world is increasingly interconnected economically, politically, ecologically from the mandate of addressing climate change, from the perspective of communication, and digitally has led many biennials to take on themes of globalization, identity, inequality, marginalization, health, and the vision for the future of our planet. As such, these venues are spaces in which artist have the capacity to share their vision for how space much more broadly might function. Moreover, they are spaces where local artists and activists can connect with a global elite around potentially revolutionary ideas about how the planet might function in the future. They are venues for testing an experimental urbanism that can probe new ways of activating disinvested sections of the city. In the process, they support exploring novel ways of intervening in and occupying the built environment. They are, as a result, one of the most important venues for the exchange of ideas on the global stage.
Generally speaking, collectors begin by housing and storing their artwork in their home or, in some cases, office. They see the process of purchasing artwork as an extension of how they live life and inhabit space. Artworks are intended to “fit” within their home, compliment the space, and reflect the collector’s values. Many collectors select artworks from artists who they know and whose stories they identify with. Some seek a high level of continuity between the different artworks in their collection while others are more interested in diversity. Some are quite interested in building collections driven by the monetary value of artworks while others are deeply concerned with the art historical significance or the role that the artwork plays in the contemporary discourse of art.
Most collectors begin by filling the space around them. Some progress to the point where they commission spaces specifically to display their artwork. The largest collectors will often rent substantial amounts of space to house artwork that cannot be displayed within their home(s). This excess of collecting might ultimately lead the collector to establish a foundation, make a considerable donation to a museum, or even establish their own museum to display their artwork for the public.
In the case of collectors who design their space in line with the artwork, it is often the case that the architecture of such spaces takes the cue from the dominant style of the artwork being displayed. Artwork from the 19th Century might be surrounded by period furniture while Minimalist Artwork from the 1960s or ‘70s might be displayed in a similarly austere setting. At the same time, significant departures have occurred that create compelling juxtapositions that enhance both the artwork and the architecture in which it sits. This capacity has given architects and designers compelling opportunities to tell unique stories through curating the relationship of content and meaning of artworks as well as how they relate to the domestic program, sequence within the home, and relationship between the private and public function of a home (fig. 15).
In considering the relationship between art and the home of the collector in which it sits, it is also important to consider the value that the artwork adds to the space. On one hand, this value exists at the level of the meaning, style, color, and general atmosphere that the artwork brings to the space. On the other hand, it exists in terms of the price that the artwork was purchased for and what it might expect to sell for. As the value of the artwork rises, so too does the need to protect the artwork through how it is displayed as well as the overall security of the house. This leads to rising home security and insurance costs. It also might lead a collector of an artist whose work has appreciated significantly to sell that artwork in order to realize a return on their investment – perhaps resulting in the artwork becoming part of the collection of a higher profile collector (fig. 16).
The mobility of artwork within and between homes – as well as storage facilities and museums – might compel us to begin to think of the relationship between art and the space in which it exists less as a static relationship and more as fluid and evolving. In this sense, we might think of an artwork as both stimulating a particular way of displaying it, a particular relationship to other artworks, and the capacity to “remember” the many locations in which it might have been hung. Moreover, we might think about the many private and public spaces in which artwork is displayed as constituting a continuum that represents the range of ways we relate to artwork and, more broadly, what we hope to get out of that artwork. Doing so will help us to understand the full vocabulary that is available to designers – liberated of a specific application and relation to other aspects of the vocabulary. This understanding might in turn lead to enhanced expression, meaning, and opportunity to create inspiring spaces that might elevate the inhabitant through the specific relationship between art and architecture. The result might be the capacity to affect how we perceive and act in relationship to the political, economic, social, and broader cultural spheres.
As the art market has grown, new larger generations of artists have continued to produce art and collectors have expanded the number of artworks they own. As a result, new demand has been created for places in which to store their artwork. This has led to a proliferation of warehouses that have the capacity to maintain and secure artwork in ideal conditions. These spaces are often retrofited warehouses formerly used to store less sensitive items or entirely ground up structures. Most are geared to simply storing artwork while some are also geared to offering collectors a space in which they can view items within their collection. Such places have become an essential part of the art market as many collectors may not be ready to take delivery of their artwork and thus desire to store the item near its point of acquisition. This is particularly true for collectors who may have an appetite for collecting that exceeds their capacity to display the artwork.
In many ways, the architecture of these spaces is largely non-descript. There is a complete disconnect between the art and its environment. This is the opposite condition to that encountered with artworks on display in the collector’s home. While still accounted for within a collection and while still representing a concrete value, they are invisible and, potentially, out of circulation for the short and perhaps long term. As existing within a secure environment, they are protected from accidents or theft that might occur within a residence and ideally suited for long-term storage. As such, there only value in this context really becomes the capacity to borrow against the value of the asset – perhaps towards the acquisition of new artwork that itself might exist hidden within a storage vault (fig. 17).
Freeports are a unique and relatively recent addition to spaces in which art is stored. These spaces are effectively tax exempt zones. Transactions of artwork in these zones can be made without the parties involved having to pay tax on the artwork changing hands. The result of this capacity is that many great artworks remain locked within freeports in order to avoid high capital gains taxes. Some experts have estimated that the best collection of artworks in the world would be revealed if all those artworks in these freeports were suddenly put on display.
While the artworks within freeports are exceptional, the architecture that contains them hardly lives up to the standards of a museum that might be deemed worthy of displaying such extraordinarily valuable items. Instead, they exist largely outside of the laws governing nations in something akin to a state of exception. The artworks themselves are held in a state of suspension outside of circulation as a purely quantitative value. In many ways, they are even outside of geography – able to be accessed from anywhere within 15-20 hours via the deployment of the wealthy collector’s private jet. Still, they remain connected to the global network of galleries, collectors, and museums (fig. 18).
When some elaboration from the generic storage space occurs, it is often to create a luxurious, private, and secure space in which collectors can view art that they own or that they might purchase. As a result of this demand, some very high end galleries have taken to keeping spaces in free ports from which they sell specific pieces of artworks to collectors who might in turn want to keep the art as an investment rather than as something to be displayed within their home. The result is a type of architecture unconstrained by external points of reference, site conditions, or environmental concerns. It is a largely abstract space motivated primarily by luxury and the desires of an ultra-high net worth clientele.
Historically, museums are an extension of domestic spaces housing collections. The first museums were palaces that had been opened to a broader public. When the first purpose built museums were constructed, they drew on the European palace typology. As they evolved, they followed some of the trends in domestic architecture. This led to a stripped down and streamlined appearance with planning, lighting, and circulation that was intended to be more conducive to the display of artwork. These highly efficient spaces, however, were often accused of lacking a sense of spirit or identity and even accused of being brutal and unfeeling. As a new generation of architects came to prominence, the design of many museums were characterized by design that offered almost too much spirit. The architecture of these spaces was so prominent that it often got in the way of effectively displaying art. In the most extreme cases, the design was conceived in such a pure manner that environmental, maintenance, and occupational concerns were largely ignored. This in turn led to a mitigation between form and function in the current wave of museums being built (fig. 19).
The history of museum architecture over the last hundred years has, in this sense, witnessed a remarkable exploration of what architecture can be and how it can house a work of art. These buildings have, perhaps more than any other typology, offered architects the opportunities to push formal and material boundaries. As some of the most costly buildings erected in a city, they have offered a chance to experiment with very expensive structural systems, materials, and finishes – some for the first time – that might later be utilized more broadly in the field of architecture. In this sense, they provided a chance to divorce architecture from the primary constraints that often provide limits that help architects guide their work. The freedom that results can be a blessing and curse that the architect must carefully navigate through a confident use of a cohesive internal design logic that provides the guidance in place of the absence of these former constraints.
The capacity to build such lavish museums is, in part, a direct extension of the extraordinary wealth that has led some collectors to be able to expand their collections significantly over the last half century. This expansion has occurred within a tax code that made it possible to leverage the value of the collection to grow its size. As these collectors aged, the size of their collections required entire new wings or new museums. If sold on the market, the collection would not only flood the market for a given artist, but would also generate massive capital gains that their heirs would have to pay. As a result, many have chosen to build new buildings to house these collections. Some of these buildings represent the most significant works of architecture in recent years (fig. 20-24).
The museum – though not necessarily on the walls of its galleries open to the public – is most likely, the final home for a given artwork. Such artwork has been deemed worthy of conservation for public enjoyment and cultural memory of the present and into the future. As such, the physical form of the museum is intended to convey this cultural importance. While they no longer have the grandiose steps flanked by lions, they occupy a considerable amount of space within a given urban context. The architect is often called upon to convey this distinction and generate a form that will stand out while also inviting guests to enter. As a result, they represent a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between city and interior, public and private. They also represent an opportunity to create a bridge between the wealthiest members of society and the broader community. This bridge has the capacity to go beyond displaying artwork and to educational programs. As art practices expand to include social engagement around sustainable communities, such institutionally supported programs can have a significant impact on the broader life of the city. In doing so, the boundaries between high-culture – and really between culture and non-culture – are blurred.
It is clear from these reflections that the space in which art exists plays a vital role in creating, exchanging, displaying, and housing artwork. The cost of maintaining this space is considerable. Whether it is space for creating work, displaying in the home, or displaying to the public, the cost has risen exponentially in recent years. The cost and value system of these spaces is striated in many ways ranging from the price paid to enter a museum, exclusive access to the opening of new shows, or coveted invitations to the homes of the world’s most significant collectors. In many ways, the cost of maintaining these spaces far outweighs the cost of actually producing any of the artwork circulating. The high prices paid, in this sense, are largely to justify appreciation of initial investment and to support the art industry in the form of gallerists, gallery operators, assistants, curators, dealers, auction house staff, and museum staff among others.
The high cost of operating the space of the artworld is particularly significant given that some of the wealthiest individuals have developed ways of paying for the operation of this space with tax exempt money. Under the guise of cultural programming and educational mission, these collectors are able to finance space for their artwork tax free. This space can in turn become a social platform for themselves and their friends. Taken collectively, this network of spaces can exists as an exclusive space in which the elite can play. Such space is cut off from the rest of the city behind a velvet rope. As the elite spend more time in these secluded spaces, they have less contact with and understanding of the decaying infrastructure that others must use and that their tax dollars could help repair.
In the context of architecture and urbanism, these observations should serve to highlight a growing split in spaces in the urban environment. While this divide between spaces reserved for the elite and the common is nothing new, the particular form is new. We would argue that this form has, in part, been determined by the development of the international art world – as well as the fashion, music, theater, and dining worlds. The inflation of the cultural sphere has created an atmosphere in which a specific breed of elite members of society can thrive. The maintenance and operation of this sphere, however, comes at a cost both for those who help operate it, those who are excluded, and the broader planet. The excess associated with the private jets, parties, and lavish consumption takes a tole on the natural environment while those who actually fabricate all the goods and services are often paid less than an equitable wage.
As architects mandated to address sustainability and who often lament the crisis of affordable housing, we should consider how the cultural realm can support these goals as well. To address this goal, we should look at the network of spaces devoted to art as a globally distributed urban condition rather than as a set of isolated design opportunities. We should seek to bring this fragmented network into focus and give it enhanced visibility. We should, in particular, bring visibility to the massive amount of artworks that remain in storage and outside the realm where they can be enjoyed. This might help us to see what should be produced in the future in a new light and perhaps will help cultural producers and the system that invests in these producers – in the past often through buying an art object – consider the merits of practices that support sustainable communities and that might not require the production of yet another art object.
To conclude, we should return to our initial question concerning how we might approach the design of the network of spaces that support the production, display, and conservation of artwork. In many ways, the question of cost and financing of space lies at the heart of a solution. Instead of discrete real estate entities focused on different areas at different price points, we should link price points and use the high value of elite art spaces to help drive investment in disinvested areas. This would allow us to design a common physical support system that makes it easier to move and install work through the network. At the same time, we could explore a digital support system that creates a digital twin of the physical environment. This would further open up a visualization of the network in a manner that goes beyond current trends of showing collection online to actually showing them in space as a practical management tool (fig. 25).
As this process of opening and demystifying the art world occurs at the architectural level – a process that should also occur at the level of value, transaction, and critical appraisal – we should consider ways that the cultural sphere can be integrated with other uses. Moreover, we should consider ways that it can break down strict hierarchies and use some of the considerable investment in the cultural sphere to better benefit a wider range of communities. Doing so might ultimately create a less fragmented world in terms of hierarchy of social space and division between digital and physical space. This would involve creating a route by which cultural activities occurring in the digital realm might occur in the physical. The ultimate effect would be to expand the market through collaboration with adjacent activities in the physical world. The result would ideally allow us to use the experiential nature of encountering artwork to re-generate parts of cities across all socio-economic strata that have suffered from digital marketplaces.