In real estate sales, as in life, there are things one chooses to do, things one must do and things one does “for the ‘gram.”
The idea of “doing it for the ‘gram,” which is any action done with the expressed goal of getting optimal likes on a photo or video shared on Instagram, is an ethos adopted by many celebrities and millennials, as well as actual children. It has also influenced the way real estate projects are designed and decorated.
From outdoor murals to paint-splattered elevator shafts, ornate lobbies and façades made of intricate lighting displays, many developers — both residential and commercial — have gone to great lengths to incorporate artistic elements into their projects. These installations bring identity to new buildings and create a sense of place.
They’re also ready-made fodder for social media, a fact that some in the industry are more willing to embrace than others.
“It’s a tremendously powerful tool,” Sherry Tobak, senior vice president of sales for Related Sales, said. “When buyers come in here [to the leasing office] and they see the site that, alone, is a social media moment.”
Tobak is leading the sales team for 15 Hudson Yards, an 88-story, 285-unit condo building on the southern edge of the Related Companies’ transformative Far West Side project.
She said many prospective buyers are compelled to capture and share images of the luxury development, which has the dual benefit of solidifying that person’s interest while also spreading word of the development to others.
Related capitalized on this 21st-century behavioral quirk earlier this month, using art as the prime motivator. The company unfurled a 90-foot nylon banner called “City Kids Speak on Liberty,” from the east side of 15 Hudson Yards.
Made by acclaimed artist Keith Haring with the assistance of 1,000 New York City kids in 1986, the banner depicts a cartoon version of the Statue of Liberty with writings and doodles contributed by various children from the city. The banner hung for four days in advance of its sale at a charity auction.
While the stunt helped draw attention to the artwork, the sale of which will benefit the CityKids Foundation, it also drew a lot of eyeballs and iPhones to the high-rise apartment building.
“When that banner was up for four days we noticed people on the High Line stopping to look and take photos, some even came down from the High Line to get a different angle on it,” Tobak said.
“It was kind of a double-edged sword because it brought attention to Keith Haring and the banner, but it also brought attention to the architecture of Hudson Yards, which is really going to be the hub of art and culture in the city, especially with the Shed right there.”
For a trio of buildings in the Madison Square neighborhood, the Kaufman Organization found a new canvas for its Insta-worthy art installations: their elevator shafts.
All three buildings, 19 West 24th Street, 15 West 27th Street and 45 West 27th Street, feature clear glass doors at the back of each passenger elevator. Through these ports, riders can see a collection of graffiti murals as they ride between floors.
Most of the paintings are portraits and many depict characters both real and fictitious from the New York area, including Andy Warhol, Jay-Z, King Kong, James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle from the film “Taxi Driver.”
There are also New York-centric images such as a firefighter at Ground Zero and a ballerina executing a pirouette on toe-point.
A crowd favorite, according to Kaufman Leasing Company partner Michael Heaner, is an Al Capone portrait at 45 West 27th Street, which the artist, Skott Marsi did as an homage to the building’s history as the former home to the Prohibition Enforcement Headquarters.
It’s also rumored that Capone’s mobsters rented an adjacent floor in the building just to spy on the feds.
Though not residential, the three commercial buildings — which are home to tenants such as Barstool Sports, Fernando Romero Architects and a handful of digital marketing firm — still benefited from their social media-friendly elevators, Heaner said.
“It really made the building stand out,” he said. “Everyone who came in to see the space commented on the elevators and we made every short list.”
While many memorable pieces are based in tried and true physical media, technology has helped broaden the horizons of the art world and buildings have benefited from this too.
StandardVisions is a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in LED lighting and displays. Some of its installations, which have graced hotels, malls and public spaces around the world, can be considered works of art on their own, but others display visual art created by local artists.
Kevin Bartanian, executive vice president of sales and business development at StandardVision, said social media is a big factor in the surging interest in art of all forms in and around buildings. In fact, his company makes a point to ensure that all of its displays have a high enough resolution to present well when photographed by a smartphone.
Though he doesn’t see digital art taking away market space from physical art in buildings, Bartanian said he sees it growing the pie.
He noted that a digital display that’s constantly changing provides more incentive for people to visit and return to a space to see it—and, of course, keep their social feed fresh.
Art as an attraction, be it for social uses or otherwise, has been on the rise for the past few years, Bartanian said, but where he’s seen the biggest growth is in the demand for quality.
“Even if you have the best technology in the world, the best screen and largest screen, if you don’t have the best content possible that moves people and touches people, it’s not worth the investment and developers are realizing that,” he said. “People are getting more educated and smarter about it.”
For Scott Aaron, managing principal of the Socius Development Group, he opted for less modern and, in his opinion, more authentic approach to art in his newest building, Exhibit, at 60 Fulton Street.
As its name suggests, art plays a major role in the 120-unit building, which is set to open next month. A collection of roughly 1,000 images, many of which were shot in black and white by five photographers, will rotate throughout the various wall space in the building.
With intimate access to the high-profile musicians from the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, Aaron said the images selected show New York City pop culture in its rawest form.
While he acknowledges that many residents and visitors will take photos of these portraits to share on social media, Aaron said that was not the point of including them in his building.
“The photography we have on display is much more raw, less filtered than what we see today,” he said. “They are beautiful but they’re run through 17 filters before they go online and they just don’t capture the same grittiness.”