Goodbye Galapagos: DUMBO’s Galapagos Art Space Is Moving to… Detroit

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 9.45.49 AM
photo via Galapagos Art Space

After almost twenty years in Brooklyn‚ Galapagos Art Space will be vacating its DUMBO location (the cultural center started out in Williamsburg before moving to Main Street in 2007) and relocating to Detroit due to… can you guess? Does it, you wonder, have anything to do with the more advantageous weather of the Midwest? Is it because the people who work there just got sick and tired of the lack of lunch options in DUMBO? Or is it because the rent got so astronomically high that the owners of Galapagos determined that “New York City has become too expensive to continue incubating young artists. The white-hot real estate market burning through affordable cultural habit is no longer a crisis, it’s a conclusion?” Ding ding ding. That’s it! The right answer is that New York is losing a cultural institution due to its increasingly unaffordable landscape. What do you win for getting the answer right? Well, that’s the twist! You win nothing. In fact, we all lose. Happy Monday, everyone.

Robert Elmes, the executive director of Galapagos, cites that beyond the expenses it takes to run an art space in New York City, the main reason that he wants to relocate is because New York is no longer a place that artists can afford to live: “You can’t paint at night in your kitchen and hope to be a good artist. It doesn’t work that way.” Elmes and his wife, Philippa Kaye, have recently “bought nine buildings totaling about 600,000 square feet in [Detroit]’s Corktown neighborhood and in neighboring Highland Park, paying what he described as the price of ‘a small apartment in New York City’ for the properties.” The couple think that Detroit is set to become the new epicenter for all young and creative people who have lately been drawn to the city because of its incredibly cheap cost of living.

The last night of programming for Galapagos will be December 18th, and Gothamist reports that Two Trees (the property company that owns the building) plans to preserve the space as “a building for the arts.” Two Trees also said that they have “long supported and promoted the art and cultural community in DUMBO with free and below market rents and we will continue to do so.”

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. Yes, New York City’s blood-suckng real estate developers and owners are trying to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg for them in the first place, …the affordable artistic havens and communities and resources and people and diversity that have made this City such a vibrant and appealing magnet for the whole country and beyond, for many years.
    And yet I really wonder, with our NYC transportation system and land area, was there NOWHERE that Galapagos could relocate in NYC where it could still be both affordable and accessible? Nowhere?
    Detroit? Heck, they might as well have moved to the Galapagos islands.
    The old adage “location, location, location” still rules, and NYC still can be THE location for artists.
    Of course, DUMBO is lost, but come on guys, and gals, don’t abandon us.

    • Well, “location, location, location” cuts both ways. From my perspective as a life-long New Yorker (Manhattan-born, Brooklyn expat for roughly 24 years), Galapagos made a prudent move, not simply based on its own ability to survive here, but on the ability of many of those actually *involved* in making art to survive here. The epicenter for making art is moving away from New York City *proper*, just as it moved from overpriced Manhattan to Brooklyn before it became “Brooklyn” (Now that J. Crew has arrived here, we’ll see how long the place can hang onto its “cool” moniker), and Galapagos is simply looking with a sharper eye than most. Yes, the developer crowd is banking on “Brooklyn’s” cool factor just long enough to make a decent cashout before going on the lam again, because their game has almost always been hit-and-run. In a handful of years, much of the borough will likely wind up like my formerly beloved Upper West Side: glittering, crowded, and, for the most part, culturally dead. I hear some people love it that way.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here