The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City (New Edition)

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Overview

Which is more important to New York City's economy, the gleaming corporate office—or the grungy rock club that launches the best new bands? If you said "office," think again. In The Warhol Economy, Elizabeth Currid argues that creative industries like fashion, art, and music drive the economy of New York as much as—if not more than—finance, real estate, and law. And these creative industries are fueled by the social life that whirls around the clubs, galleries, music venues, and fashion shows where creative people meet, network, exchange ideas, pass judgments, and set the trends that shape popular culture.

The implications of Currid's argument are far-reaching, and not just for New York. Urban policymakers, she suggests, have not only seriously underestimated the importance of the cultural economy, but they have failed to recognize that it depends on a vibrant creative social scene. They haven't understood, in other words, the social, cultural, and economic mix that Currid calls the Warhol economy.

With vivid first-person reporting about New York's creative scene, Currid takes the reader into the city spaces where the social and economic lives of creativity merge. The book has fascinating original interviews with many of New York's important creative figures, including fashion designers Zac Posen and Diane von Furstenberg, artists Ryan McGinness and Futura, and members of the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

The economics of art and culture in New York and other cities has been greatly misunderstood and underrated. The Warhol Economy explains how the cultural economy works-and why it is vital to all great cities.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Any discussion about New York City's economic well-being tends to start and end with one phrase: Wall Street. As the Street goes, we assume, so goes the city, which is why politicians will do almost anything to keep the brokerages and investment banks happy.... [In] The Warhol Economy the social scientist Elizabeth Currid argues that this fixation is misdirected, and that it has led us to neglect the city's most vital and distinctive economic sector: the culture industry, which, in Currid's definition, includes everything from fashion, art, and music to night clubs. In other words, it's SoHo and Chelsea, not Wall Street, that the politicians should really be thinking about. Of course, everyone knows that art and culture help make New York a great place to live. But Currid goes much further, showing that the culture industry creates tremendous economic value in its own right.
— James Surowiecki
The Australian
Elizabeth Currid argues forcefully that government policy plays an essential role in attracting or repelling cultural producers. She suggests that economic planners should apply themselves to building cultural hubs as assiduously as policy-makers did in developing Silicon Valley and the City of London as technological and financial centres.
— Julia Fetherston
The Globe and Mail
From a public policy perspective, art and culture are often thought of as mere frills—so-called 'quality of life' traits—that help attract the business talent that really drives a city's economy. But in The Warhol Economy, Currid argues that the cultural industries are actually a much larger economic force than is traditionally understood....The research in The Warhol Economy is specific to New York, but Currid argues that its larger lesson can and should be applied to any city that seeks a place in the new idea-driven economy.
— Simon Houpt
Daily Kos - Susan Gardner
[Currid] describes the organic, informal, social networking side of the creative arts in a mixed tone of Rolling Stone new journalism and objective reporting that serves to advance her central thesis: that as an independent drive of an urban economy, the arts and its related industries should stop being viewed as the beautiful step-child of city environments.
New York Times - Anya Kamenetz
Not every PhD student blows her fellowship money at Barneys New York. But for the urban planner Elizabeth Currid, her passion for style led to some interesting statistics.
The New Yorker - James Surowiecki
Any discussion about New York City's economic well-being tends to start and end with one phrase: Wall Street. As the Street goes, we assume, so goes the city, which is why politicians will do almost anything to keep the brokerages and investment banks happy.... [In] The Warhol Economy the social scientist Elizabeth Currid argues that this fixation is misdirected, and that it has led us to neglect the city's most vital and distinctive economic sector: the culture industry, which, in Currid's definition, includes everything from fashion, art, and music to night clubs. In other words, it's SoHo and Chelsea, not Wall Street, that the politicians should really be thinking about. Of course, everyone knows that art and culture help make New York a great place to live. But Currid goes much further, showing that the culture industry creates tremendous economic value in its own right.
Times Literary Supplement - Roz Kaveney
Elizabeth Currid's argument in this intelligent and innovative book is that New York, and certain other great cities in particular periods, function as the Factory on a greater scale, and that social policy out to reflect that fact.
Soho Journal - Christina Panas
A brilliant analysis of the social mechanisms by which creative individuals and the industries they populate drive New York's economy...Beyond Ms. Currid's reasoned analysis and careful exposition of fact, The Warhol Economy is simply a pleasure to read in a way that sociological studies never are. Engaging, gossipy without being trashy, and just plain fun, The Warhol Economy is social science with a downtown mentality, it points to significant realities in the generation of cultural capital that are, important, and ready for broadcast.
Village Voice - Annie Fischer
An exploration of how fashion, art, and music drive New York City, The Warhol Economy argues that the city's cultural resources contribute more to the economy than most policy makers realize or admit. Interviews with well-known bands, designers, artists, club owners, and writers underscore the value of cultural producers; an appendix's worth of hard numbers back them up.
Bloomberg Muse - Carly Berwick
Sweeping, gossipy, flawed and fun, Currid's book stands alone as a work equally obsessed with the 'location quotient' of a given industry and with Marc Jacobs, the designer....It is the job of the social scientist to take a banal observation—for example, that New York is full of artists and musicians who like to go out at night and all seem to know one another—and worry over it to the point that the obvious seems to fairly glow with complexity. Currid pulls this trick off nicely, and she throws in some amusing backstage anecdotes for extra cultural currency.
CityView - Andrew Brink
Currid takes the reader on a concise tour of New York's 150-year history of being a haven and incubator for artists while offering a healthy reminder for any city interested in sustaining a lively arts scene: culture drives economic growth.
Scotsman - Michael Pye
What Currid shows is that culture matters as much as high finance to the city's economy—150,00 new jobs in 2001, she says—but nobody's paying attention to how it really works: not the grants for plodding public art, not the checques for art world institutions, but the life. If you want to be world capital of culture, it may be more important to have low rents for big spaces and somewhere to dance....The importance of her work is that she's saying the obvious to policy wonks and city planners, hanging her arguments on an impressive framework of proper statistics.
The Australian - Julia Fetherston
Elizabeth Currid argues forcefully that government policy plays an essential role in attracting or repelling cultural producers. She suggests that economic planners should apply themselves to building cultural hubs as assiduously as policy-makers did in developing Silicon Valley and the City of London as technological and financial centres.
Choice - P.K. Kresl
Given the current hype about economic clusters, what a pleasure it is to read a book about a real cluster—one with all the competition and collaboration, the shared pool of skilled labor, and the intense face-to-face interaction that are essential to the true cluster. Others have discussed the New York City arts scene from the standpoint of economic geography, but none better than Currid. Her understanding of how the industry functions and her insightful analysis of its economics provides the basis for her discussion of what urban policy makers should do to foster growth of this essential element in the economy of the creative or knowledge city.
Journal of Cultural Economy - Simon Roodhouse
This book is about how one urban conurbation, New York City, works and how creativity occurs within it. It sets out to provide an understanding of how creativity in fashion, art and music originates, why it happens and where it takes place. The book is a good read, generously illustrated with stories of the NYC creative milieu past and present, extensively noted and referenced.
24 Hours Toronto - Tanya Enberg
Currid points to the glittery fashion industry, fabulous club life and art openings as more than just creative inspiration in the New York Scene. All are big financial players that help fill the Big Apple's own coffers.... The Warhol Economy brings out the voices of New York scenesters, including fashion designers Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen, musicians Quincy Jones and the Talking Heads, as well as Hilly Kristal, founder of the famous but now defunct club CBGB.
Big RED & Shiny - Joe Leduc
Currid offers social science with a downtown mentality, crunching numbers with one eye on her data set and the other on the dance floor....The Warhol Economy performs the very useful role of demonstrating how that which appears ephemeral and unimportant in the life of a city actually serves as part of what makes it function.... [The] book reforms and advances the debate on cities and the creative economy that continues to loom large in New York and across the country.
New York Sun - Elissa Strauss
New York's creative industries are inextricably linked...[Currid] discusses not just the power of such social networks, but also the fusion of fashion and art.
The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
From a public policy perspective, art and culture are often thought of as mere frills—so-called 'quality of life' traits—that help attract the business talent that really drives a city's economy. But in The Warhol Economy, Currid argues that the cultural industries are actually a much larger economic force than is traditionally understood....The research in The Warhol Economy is specific to New York, but Currid argues that its larger lesson can and should be applied to any city that seeks a place in the new idea-driven economy.
AllAboutCities.com - Wendy Waters
The numerous formal and informal—and even messy—interactions that connect the people and companies within a cluster come alive under Currid's direction. Currid offers a detailed, thorough account of how a cluster works at the micro level where people cross over related industries (graffiti artist and fashion designer, for example), cross-pollinate ideas, and work through word of mouth.
Regional Studies - Nicholas Velluzzi
I would recommend The Warhol Economy to the already conversant regional development audience as it is a thought-provoking text and a most welcome contribution to the literature on cultural production and cities.
Economic Geography - Dominic Power
[T]he book is well written in an entertaining style that relies heavily on storytelling and anecdotal evidence. Currid is not afraid to describe what she was wearing during her fieldwork or how she was feeling in certain situations. This style greatly humanizes the book and helps build a subtle and informative contextual background. While this choice of style can be criticized, it adds to the accessibility of the book and makes it one that I am sure many students and faculty alike will enjoy reading.
From the Publisher
"[Currid] describes the organic, informal, social networking side of the creative arts in a mixed tone of Rolling Stone new journalism and objective reporting that serves to advance her central thesis: that as an independent drive of an urban economy, the arts and its related industries should stop being viewed as the beautiful step-child of city environments."—Susan Gardner, Daily Kos

"Not every PhD student blows her fellowship money at Barneys New York. But for the urban planner Elizabeth Currid, her passion for style led to some interesting statistics."—Anya Kamenetz, New York Times

"Any discussion about New York City's economic well-being tends to start and end with one phrase: Wall Street. As the Street goes, we assume, so goes the city, which is why politicians will do almost anything to keep the brokerages and investment banks happy.... [In] The Warhol Economy the social scientist Elizabeth Currid argues that this fixation is misdirected, and that it has led us to neglect the city's most vital and distinctive economic sector: the culture industry, which, in Currid's definition, includes everything from fashion, art, and music to night clubs. In other words, it's SoHo and Chelsea, not Wall Street, that the politicians should really be thinking about. Of course, everyone knows that art and culture help make New York a great place to live. But Currid goes much further, showing that the culture industry creates tremendous economic value in its own right."—James Surowiecki, The New Yorker

"Elizabeth Currid's argument in this intelligent and innovative book is that New York, and certain other great cities in particular periods, function as the Factory on a greater scale, and that social policy out to reflect that fact."—Roz Kaveney, Times Literary Supplement

"In detailing the inner workings of New York's creative industries...urban planning PhD Currid gives readers an eagle-eyed look at the networking mechanics of the art-as-business crowd. Colorful description abounds, as do colorful characters."Publishers Weekly

"Currid provides an interesting explanation of the transformation of New York City from bohemia to cultural economy as art, music, fashion, and design collided."Business Economist

"A brilliant analysis of the social mechanisms by which creative individuals and the industries they populate drive New York's economy...Beyond Ms. Currid's reasoned analysis and careful exposition of fact, The Warhol Economy is simply a pleasure to read in a way that sociological studies never are. Engaging, gossipy without being trashy, and just plain fun, The Warhol Economy is social science with a downtown mentality, it points to significant realities in the generation of cultural capital that are, important, and ready for broadcast."—Christina Panas, Soho Journal

"An exploration of how fashion, art, and music drive New York City, The Warhol Economy argues that the city's cultural resources contribute more to the economy than most policy makers realize or admit. Interviews with well-known bands, designers, artists, club owners, and writers underscore the value of cultural producers; an appendix's worth of hard numbers back them up."—Annie Fischer, Village Voice

"Sweeping, gossipy, flawed and fun, Currid's book stands alone as a work equally obsessed with the 'location quotient' of a given industry and with Marc Jacobs, the designer....It is the job of the social scientist to take a banal observation—for example, that New York is full of artists and musicians who like to go out at night and all seem to know one another—and worry over it to the point that the obvious seems to fairly glow with complexity. Currid pulls this trick off nicely, and she throws in some amusing backstage anecdotes for extra cultural currency."—Carly Berwick, Bloomberg Muse

"Currid takes the reader on a concise tour of New York's 150-year history of being a haven and incubator for artists while offering a healthy reminder for any city interested in sustaining a lively arts scene: culture drives economic growth."—Andrew Brink, CityView

"What Currid shows is that culture matters as much as high finance to the city's economy—150,00 new jobs in 2001, she says—but nobody's paying attention to how it really works: not the grants for plodding public art, not the checques for art world institutions, but the life. If you want to be world capital of culture, it may be more important to have low rents for big spaces and somewhere to dance....The importance of her work is that she's saying the obvious to policy wonks and city planners, hanging her arguments on an impressive framework of proper statistics."—Michael Pye, Scotsman

"Elizabeth Currid argues forcefully that government policy plays an essential role in attracting or repelling cultural producers. She suggests that economic planners should apply themselves to building cultural hubs as assiduously as policy-makers did in developing Silicon Valley and the City of London as technological and financial centres."—Julia Fetherston, The Australian

"The Warhol Economy is a provocative study of New York City's economy and how the creative industries such as fashion, art and music drive its economy as much as finance, real estate, and law. What's fascinating about this book is that she has used first-hand documentation and over 100 illuminating interviews with leading fashion designers, musicians, club owners, and artists such as Ryan McGinness, Lee Quinones, and Futura, to get an insider's account of how creativity is at work in New York from a sociological point of view."Umbrella Magazine

"Given the current hype about economic clusters, what a pleasure it is to read a book about a real cluster—one with all the competition and collaboration, the shared pool of skilled labor, and the intense face-to-face interaction that are essential to the true cluster. Others have discussed the New York City arts scene from the standpoint of economic geography, but none better than Currid. Her understanding of how the industry functions and her insightful analysis of its economics provides the basis for her discussion of what urban policy makers should do to foster growth of this essential element in the economy of the creative or knowledge city."—P.K. Kresl, Choice

"This book is about how one urban conurbation, New York City, works and how creativity occurs within it. It sets out to provide an understanding of how creativity in fashion, art and music originates, why it happens and where it takes place. The book is a good read, generously illustrated with stories of the NYC creative milieu past and present, extensively noted and referenced."—Simon Roodhouse, Journal of Cultural Economy

"Currid points to the glittery fashion industry, fabulous club life and art openings as more than just creative inspiration in the New York Scene. All are big financial players that help fill the Big Apple's own coffers.... The Warhol Economy brings out the voices of New York scenesters, including fashion designers Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen, musicians Quincy Jones and the Talking Heads, as well as Hilly Kristal, founder of the famous but now defunct club CBGB."—Tanya Enberg, 24 Hours Toronto

"Currid offers social science with a downtown mentality, crunching numbers with one eye on her data set and the other on the dance floor....The Warhol Economy performs the very useful role of demonstrating how that which appears ephemeral and unimportant in the life of a city actually serves as part of what makes it function.... [The] book reforms and advances the debate on cities and the creative economy that continues to loom large in New York and across the country."—Joe Leduc, Big RED & Shiny

"New York's creative industries are inextricably linked...[Currid] discusses not just the power of such social networks, but also the fusion of fashion and art."—Elissa Strauss, New York Sun

"From a public policy perspective, art and culture are often thought of as mere frills—so-called 'quality of life' traits—that help attract the business talent that really drives a city's economy. But in The Warhol Economy, Currid argues that the cultural industries are actually a much larger economic force than is traditionally understood....The research in The Warhol Economy is specific to New York, but Currid argues that its larger lesson can and should be applied to any city that seeks a place in the new idea-driven economy."—Simon Houpt, The Globe and Mail

"The numerous formal and informal—and even messy—interactions that connect the people and companies within a cluster come alive under Currid's direction. Currid offers a detailed, thorough account of how a cluster works at the micro level where people cross over related industries (graffiti artist and fashion designer, for example), cross-pollinate ideas, and work through word of mouth."—Wendy Waters, AllAboutCities.com

"This book is about how one urban conurbation, New York City, works and how creativity occurs within it. It sets out to provide an understanding of how creativity in fashion, art and music originates, why it happens and where it takes place. The book is a good read, generously illustrated with stories of the NYC creative milieu past and present, extensively noted and referenced."—Simon Roodhouse, Journal of Cultural Economics

"I would recommend The Warhol Economy to the already conversant regional development audience as it is a thought-provoking text and a most welcome contribution to the literature on cultural production and cities."—Nicholas Velluzzi, Regional Studies

"[T]he book is well written in an entertaining style that relies heavily on storytelling and anecdotal evidence. Currid is not afraid to describe what she was wearing during her fieldwork or how she was feeling in certain situations. This style greatly humanizes the book and helps build a subtle and informative contextual background. While this choice of style can be criticized, it adds to the accessibility of the book and makes it one that I am sure many students and faculty alike will enjoy reading."—Dominic Power, Economic Geography

Daily Kos
[Currid] describes the organic, informal, social networking side of the creative arts in a mixed tone of Rolling Stone new journalism and objective reporting that serves to advance her central thesis: that as an independent drive of an urban economy, the arts and its related industries should stop being viewed as the beautiful step-child of city environments.
— Susan Gardner
New York Times
Not every PhD student blows her fellowship money at Barneys New York. But for the urban planner Elizabeth Currid, her passion for style led to some interesting statistics.
— Anya Kamenetz
Times Literary Supplement
Elizabeth Currid's argument in this intelligent and innovative book is that New York, and certain other great cities in particular periods, function as the Factory on a greater scale, and that social policy out to reflect that fact.
— Roz Kaveney
Business Economist
Currid provides an interesting explanation of the transformation of New York City from bohemia to cultural economy as art, music, fashion, and design collided.
Village Voice
An exploration of how fashion, art, and music drive New York City, The Warhol Economy argues that the city's cultural resources contribute more to the economy than most policy makers realize or admit. Interviews with well-known bands, designers, artists, club owners, and writers underscore the value of cultural producers; an appendix's worth of hard numbers back them up.
— Annie Fischer
Bloomberg Muse
Sweeping, gossipy, flawed and fun, Currid's book stands alone as a work equally obsessed with the 'location quotient' of a given industry and with Marc Jacobs, the designer....It is the job of the social scientist to take a banal observation—for example, that New York is full of artists and musicians who like to go out at night and all seem to know one another—and worry over it to the point that the obvious seems to fairly glow with complexity. Currid pulls this trick off nicely, and she throws in some amusing backstage anecdotes for extra cultural currency.
— Carly Berwick
CityView
Currid takes the reader on a concise tour of New York's 150-year history of being a haven and incubator for artists while offering a healthy reminder for any city interested in sustaining a lively arts scene: culture drives economic growth.
— Andrew Brink
Scotsman
What Currid shows is that culture matters as much as high finance to the city's economy—150,00 new jobs in 2001, she says—but nobody's paying attention to how it really works: not the grants for plodding public art, not the checques for art world institutions, but the life. If you want to be world capital of culture, it may be more important to have low rents for big spaces and somewhere to dance....The importance of her work is that she's saying the obvious to policy wonks and city planners, hanging her arguments on an impressive framework of proper statistics.
— Michael Pye
Umbrella Magazine
The Warhol Economy is a provocative study of New York City's economy and how the creative industries such as fashion, art and music drive its economy as much as finance, real estate, and law. What's fascinating about this book is that she has used first-hand documentation and over 100 illuminating interviews with leading fashion designers, musicians, club owners, and artists such as Ryan McGinness, Lee Quinones, and Futura, to get an insider's account of how creativity is at work in New York from a sociological point of view.
Soho Journal
A brilliant analysis of the social mechanisms by which creative individuals and the industries they populate drive New York's economy...Beyond Ms. Currid's reasoned analysis and careful exposition of fact, The Warhol Economy is simply a pleasure to read in a way that sociological studies never are. Engaging, gossipy without being trashy, and just plain fun, The Warhol Economy is social science with a downtown mentality, it points to significant realities in the generation of cultural capital that are, important, and ready for broadcast.
— Christina Panas
Choice
Given the current hype about economic clusters, what a pleasure it is to read a book about a real cluster—one with all the competition and collaboration, the shared pool of skilled labor, and the intense face-to-face interaction that are essential to the true cluster. Others have discussed the New York City arts scene from the standpoint of economic geography, but none better than Currid. Her understanding of how the industry functions and her insightful analysis of its economics provides the basis for her discussion of what urban policy makers should do to foster growth of this essential element in the economy of the creative or knowledge city.
— P.K. Kresl
Journal of Cultural Economy
This book is about how one urban conurbation, New York City, works and how creativity occurs within it. It sets out to provide an understanding of how creativity in fashion, art and music originates, why it happens and where it takes place. The book is a good read, generously illustrated with stories of the NYC creative milieu past and present, extensively noted and referenced.
— Simon Roodhouse
24 Hours Toronto
Currid points to the glittery fashion industry, fabulous club life and art openings as more than just creative inspiration in the New York Scene. All are big financial players that help fill the Big Apple's own coffers.... The Warhol Economy brings out the voices of New York scenesters, including fashion designers Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen, musicians Quincy Jones and the Talking Heads, as well as Hilly Kristal, founder of the famous but now defunct club CBGB.
— Tanya Enberg
Big RED & Shiny
Currid offers social science with a downtown mentality, crunching numbers with one eye on her data set and the other on the dance floor....The Warhol Economy performs the very useful role of demonstrating how that which appears ephemeral and unimportant in the life of a city actually serves as part of what makes it function.... [The] book reforms and advances the debate on cities and the creative economy that continues to loom large in New York and across the country.
— Joe Leduc
New York Sun
New York's creative industries are inextricably linked...[Currid] discusses not just the power of such social networks, but also the fusion of fashion and art.
— Elissa Strauss
AllAboutCities.com
The numerous formal and informal—and even messy—interactions that connect the people and companies within a cluster come alive under Currid's direction. Currid offers a detailed, thorough account of how a cluster works at the micro level where people cross over related industries (graffiti artist and fashion designer, for example), cross-pollinate ideas, and work through word of mouth.
— Wendy Waters
Journal of Cultural Economics
This book is about how one urban conurbation, New York City, works and how creativity occurs within it. It sets out to provide an understanding of how creativity in fashion, art and music originates, why it happens and where it takes place. The book is a good read, generously illustrated with stories of the NYC creative milieu past and present, extensively noted and referenced.
— Simon Roodhouse
Regional Studies
I would recommend The Warhol Economy to the already conversant regional development audience as it is a thought-provoking text and a most welcome contribution to the literature on cultural production and cities.
— Nicholas Velluzzi
Economic Geography
[T]he book is well written in an entertaining style that relies heavily on storytelling and anecdotal evidence. Currid is not afraid to describe what she was wearing during her fieldwork or how she was feeling in certain situations. This style greatly humanizes the book and helps build a subtle and informative contextual background. While this choice of style can be criticized, it adds to the accessibility of the book and makes it one that I am sure many students and faculty alike will enjoy reading.
— Dominic Power
The New Yorker
Any discussion about New York City's economic well-being tends to start and end with one phrase: Wall Street. As the Street goes, we assume, so goes the city, which is why politicians will do almost anything to keep the brokerages and investment banks happy.... [In] The Warhol Economy the social scientist Elizabeth Currid argues that this fixation is misdirected, and that it has led us to neglect the city's most vital and distinctive economic sector: the culture industry, which, in Currid's definition, includes everything from fashion, art, and music to night clubs. In other words, it's SoHo and Chelsea, not Wall Street, that the politicians should really be thinking about. Of course, everyone knows that art and culture help make New York a great place to live. But Currid goes much further, showing that the culture industry creates tremendous economic value in its own right.
— James Surowiecki
Village Voice
An exploration of how fashion, art, and music drive New York City, The Warhol Economy argues that the city's cultural resources contribute more to the economy than most policy makers realize or admit. Interviews with well-known bands, designers, artists, club owners, and writers underscore the value of cultural producers; an appendix's worth of hard numbers back them up.
— Annie Fischer
Scotsman
What Currid shows is that culture matters as much as high finance to the city's economy—150,00 new jobs in 2001, she says—but nobody's paying attention to how it really works: not the grants for plodding public art, not the checques for art world institutions, but the life. If you want to be world capital of culture, it may be more important to have low rents for big spaces and somewhere to dance....The importance of her work is that she's saying the obvious to policy wonks and city planners, hanging her arguments on an impressive framework of proper statistics.
— Michael Pye
The Globe and Mail
From a public policy perspective, art and culture are often thought of as mere frills—so-called 'quality of life' traits—that help attract the business talent that really drives a city's economy. But in The Warhol Economy, Currid argues that the cultural industries are actually a much larger economic force than is traditionally understood....The research in The Warhol Economy is specific to New York, but Currid argues that its larger lesson can and should be applied to any city that seeks a place in the new idea-driven economy.
— Simon Houpt
Umbrella Magazine
The Warhol Economy is a provocative study of New York City's economy and how the creative industries such as fashion, art and music drive its economy as much as finance, real estate, and law. What's fascinating about this book is that she has used first-hand documentation and over 100 illuminating interviews with leading fashion designers, musicians, club owners, and artists such as Ryan McGinness, Lee Quinones, and Futura, to get an insider's account of how creativity is at work in New York from a sociological point of view.
Daily Kos
[Currid] describes the organic, informal, social networking side of the creative arts in a mixed tone of Rolling Stone new journalism and objective reporting that serves to advance her central thesis: that as an independent drive of an urban economy, the arts and its related industries should stop being viewed as the beautiful step-child of city environments.
— Susan Gardner
24 Hours Toronto
Currid points to the glittery fashion industry, fabulous club life and art openings as more than just creative inspiration in the New York Scene. All are big financial players that help fill the Big Apple's own coffers.... The Warhol Economy brings out the voices of New York scenesters, including fashion designers Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen, musicians Quincy Jones and the Talking Heads, as well as Hilly Kristal, founder of the famous but now defunct club CBGB.
— Tanya Enberg
Big RED & Shiny
Currid offers social science with a downtown mentality, crunching numbers with one eye on her data set and the other on the dance floor....The Warhol Economy performs the very useful role of demonstrating how that which appears ephemeral and unimportant in the life of a city actually serves as part of what makes it function.... [The] book reforms and advances the debate on cities and the creative economy that continues to loom large in New York and across the country.
— Joe Leduc
CityView
Currid takes the reader on a concise tour of New York's 150-year history of being a haven and incubator for artists while offering a healthy reminder for any city interested in sustaining a lively arts scene: culture drives economic growth.
— Andrew Brink
Soho Journal
A brilliant analysis of the social mechanisms by which creative individuals and the industries they populate drive New York's economy...Beyond Ms. Currid's reasoned analysis and careful exposition of fact, The Warhol Economy is simply a pleasure to read in a way that sociological studies never are. Engaging, gossipy without being trashy, and just plain fun, The Warhol Economy is social science with a downtown mentality, it points to significant realities in the generation of cultural capital that are, important, and ready for broadcast.
— Christina Panas
Regional Studies
I would recommend The Warhol Economy to the already conversant regional development audience as it is a thought-provoking text and a most welcome contribution to the literature on cultural production and cities.
— Nicholas Velluzzi
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691138749
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/29/2008
  • Edition description: New
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 8.96 (w) x 6.94 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Currid is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning, and Development. She holds a Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia University and divides her time between New York and Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

The Warhol Economy
By Elizabeth Currid Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2007
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-12837-5


Chapter One ART, CULTURE, AND NEW YORK CITY

In 1977, a graffiti duo with the name of SAMO (standing for Same Old Shit) began bombarding New York subways and slums. It was the height of graffiti's hold on the city, with thousands of kids running through subway tunnels deep into the night, away from cops and into subway yards where they spent hours painting masterpieces and signature tags on the sides of the subway cars so that, come morning, the trains would barrel through the city displaying their names and artwork like advertisements to anyone waiting on the platform. Thousands of kids wrote graffiti through their teenage years, only to put aside their artistic leanings by the time they reached their twenties, remaining unknown and invisible to anyone who didn't ride the New York subway system during the 1970s and '80s.

But SAMO was different. Still living in the gritty East Village, working and DJ-ing at downtown clubs, by 1981, one-half of the duo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, had attained recognition in the art world as the "Radiant Child" in ArtForum magazine. By the early eighties, Basquiat was being shown alongside Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clemente, and Keith Haring. Between 1982 and 1985, Basquiat dated a then little-known musician named Madonna, began working with Andy Warhol, was shown by the star-maker galleryowner Mary Boone (his paintings sold for over $20,000), and landed on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. In 1988, he died of a heroin overdose. He was twenty-seven years old. Basquiat's paintings are still worth thousands and thousands of dollars, and he is still considered one of the pivotal figures in New York's postmodern, Neo-expressionist art world. Basquiat's life, from his early days as an anonymous graffiti writer to the gritty East Village art and nightlife scene he thrived in, to meeting Mary Boone and Andy Warhol (who radically changed and catapulted his career) is emblematic of the central reason that New York City remains one of the global centers of creativity. In New York, such things happen, and in New York, creativity and creative people are able to succeed. Basquiat's life, while tragically short, is illustrative of the mythology of artistic creativity. Fashion, art, and music are fun. They are, after all, the industries that drive celebrity and create those ephemeral and elusive qualities of glamour, sexy, and cool. And how they attain these qualities is often impossible, if not downright arbitrary, to predict. Putting value on Mark Rothko's painting or Manolo Blahnik's latest sky-high stiletto is not easy. It's not clear what makes Marc Jacobs' Kurt-Cobain-meets-hot-librarian sweatshirts and dresses so appealing, but that doesn't stop thousands of women around the world from purchasing them in bulk. And people like Marc Jacobs as a person too (people who've never actually even met him). They read about his clothes in Anna Wintour's editorials in Vogue, they follow his social life in gossip magazines and columns. The same can be said of any number of creative people, from Quincy Jones to Jay-Z to Diane von Furstenberg-or, more broadly, "cultural producers"-those who create and produce the art and culture consumed by both mass and niche markets.

But this is not just a book devoted to talking about how fashion, art, and music are interesting and fun. For that, you can read SPIN or Vogue or ARTnews. Instead, The Warhol Economy is about how and why fashion, art, and music are important to New York City. Despite the random and seemingly arbitrary processes that lead to the success of a music single or a new designer, a pattern emerges: a preponderance of creativity on the global market-and successful creativity at that-comes out of New York City. Why is that?

On a basic level, it's clear that art and culture happen in particular places-New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles, Milan. Parties and clubs and high-profile restaurants are often cited in tandem with the celebrities that frequent them. Entertainment-whether Fashion Week or the MTV Music Awards show-generates lots of money and, if we think a little more, probably lots of jobs. But much of our understanding of art and culture is taken for granted at best, superficial and inconsequential at worst.

Worst because we view the role of art and culture as insignificant and not as a meaningful part of an urban, regional, or national economy. We take it as more fun and less business. And so, although policymakers and urban economists are versed in the mechanics of urban economies or how we think cities work, the role of art and culture is left out of this basic paradigm of city growth and vitality, why some cities are more or less successful than others, and what components are necessary to generate great, vibrant places where people want to live.

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 cliché 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.

Central is the assumption that cultural economies operate differently from other industries. What we traditionally think of as the lure of New York City for business is different for those who produce art and culture. The central tenets of successful urban economies (the density of suppliers, the closeness of a labor market) are indeed important to fashion, art, and music, but they manifest themselves in a different way. For finance, law, manufacturing, and other traditional industries, these systems and mechanisms are pretty straightforward and, for the most part, operate within a formal, rigid structure. Economists often talk of the agglomeration of labor pools, firms, suppliers, and resources as producing an ensuing social environment where those involved in these different sectors engage each other in informal ways (they hang out in the same bars, live in the same neighborhoods, and so on). But this informal social life that economists often hail as a successful by-product (what they call a positive spillover or externality) of an economic cluster is actually the central force, the raison d'être, for art and culture. The cultural economy is most efficient in the informal social realm and social dynamics underlie the economic system of cultural production. Creativity would not exist as successfully or efficiently without its social world-the social is not the by-product-it is the decisive mechanism by which cultural products and cultural producers are generated, evaluated and sent to the market (more on this in chapters 4 and 5).

The cultural economy operates far from the boardrooms and skyscrapers that pack Manhattan's geography. The evaluation of culture occurs in the tents in Bryant Park during Fashion Week, the galleries in Chelsea, the nightlife of the Lower East Side, or the clandestine nooks in SoHo, Chelsea, or the Meatpacking District that house nightclubs, lounges, and restaurants with bouncers who could be mistaken for Secret Service agents. In these haunts-often exclusive-the cultural economy works most efficiently. Culture is about taste, not performance, and so, unlike a dishwasher or a computer or even a car, there is no method or even means to evaluate how well it performs. We do not make decisions about pieces of art or music to listen to or (for many women) dresses to wear, based on how well they work. We buy these things because we like them ... for some reason. And that reason is, very often, because it has been given value by experts-someone or some people or some organization or gallery or newspaper-that has the credibility to crown a dress, a painting, or a new music single with the approval and the cachet that make it worth wearing, buying, or listening to. These people are the gatekeepers, the tastemakers, the "connectors," to use Malcom Gladwell's term. They tell us what is worth having, what has taste, in a seemingly arbitrary, symbolic, and status-driven economy.

Tastemakers and gatekeepers spend a lot of time in the social realm-they (and the creative people who also thrive in the social life of New York) give meaning to a world that many people think of as frivolous, superficial, or filled with beautiful people who have nothing to say. It is the social life of creativity-from industry parties to 2 a.m. nights at Passerby or the Double Seven-that is the central nexus between culture and commerce. It is in this realm that creative people get jobs, meet with editors and curators who write reviews and organize exhibitions and shows. Designers like Dior's Hedi Slimane or the late Stephen Sprouse plug into the nightlife scene to become inspired for their next collection; simultaneously business deals across creative industries are made while just hanging out late into the night. When Vanity Fair asked Slimane who the most stylish woman in the world is, he replied, "Some unknown girl on the dance floor." It is this seemingly informal social world that drives and sustains the cultural economy, and it is why New York has been able to maintain its creative edge decade upon decade.

The very idea of a cultural economy deserves further explanation. When we think of art and culture, we often think of film or fashion or art or design but often as separate entities. And while they do cultivate their own following, discipline, and norms, they are also part of a far more encompassing and symbiotic whole than we generally consider them. These separate industries operate within a fluid economy that allows creative industries to collaborate with one another, review each other's products, and offer jobs that cross-fertilize and share skill sets, whether it is an artist who becomes a creative director for a fashion house or a graffiti artist who works for an advertising agency. That there is real importance in the music that designer John Varvatos listens to or what the singer Beyonce wears when she goes out indicates the degree to which those who work in the cultural economy are simultaneously producers and gatekeepers. That the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds the Costume Institute benefit, the annual gala devoted to fashion design, and that Nike hires graffiti artists to design sneakers is evidence of the interdependent nature that artistic and cultural industries have with one another, and their need to be around each other and engaging each other in the same places. And therein lies the significance of New York's informal social life in cultivating the fluidity of creativity and the symbiotic relationships that fashion, art, music, graphic design, and their related industries have with one another. This type of cross-fertilization is partly responsible for how New York maintains its edge across a wide field of cultural industries. Chapter 6 looks at the various ways that such types of relationships form and produce new types of creativity.

Geography plays an important role, too: all of this occurs in the same limited geography, the island of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The parties, the nightlife, the gatekeepers, the artists, and fashion designers and musicians and museums, rock venues, and so on are all sharing the same twenty-five square miles or so. (As are the hoops to jump through, the editors and curators to please, the high-powered jobs, the magazines, music labels, and museums that matter to the global economy.) New York City, due to this dense concentration, is a global tastemaker that dictates the direction of fashion, art, music, and design across the world. So if a creative producer is successful in navigating the networks of New York's cultural economy, she has, in the process, undoubtedly established herself with the rest of the world.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Warhol Economy by Elizabeth Currid
Copyright © 2007 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

PREFACE ix
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xiii
CHAPTER 1: Art, Culture, and New York City 1
CHAPTER 2: How It All Began From the Rise of the Factory to the Rise of Bling 17
CHAPTER 3: Becoming Creative 45
CHAPTER 4: The Social Life of Creativity 66
CHAPTER 5: The Economics of a Dance Floor 87
CHAPTER 6: Creating Buzz, Selling Cool 114
CHAPTER 7: The Rise of Global Tastemakers
What It All Means for the Policymakers 154
EPILOGUE 187
APPENDIX 191
NOTES 211
REFERENCES 233
INDEX 243

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