In New Condos, Art Is Now a Crucial Part of the Deal

At 50 Greenpoint, a new 44-unit condominium in Brooklyn, passers-by will find a surprise.

Wrapping two corners of the building, at ground level, are riotously colored works by the Brooklyn street artist JMikal Davis. Mr. Davis, who also goes by the name Hellbent, is perhaps best known for spray-painting entire buildings with vivid compositions that resemble overlapping layers of wallpaper.

The pieces at 50 Greenpoint, which are integrated into the facade, are made from stepped, backlit panels of aluminum composite material that have been laser-cut with intricate patterns. Each work measures about 7½ feet tall by 10 feet long.

“It’s my first sculptural piece,” Mr. Davis said. “I’m lucky to have done a few commissions with different realty companies, and they’ve always given me carte blanche to do my thing.”

Brendan Aguayo, a managing director of Halstead Property Development Marketing, proposed the project. “It definitely stands out,” he said. “I think it will become iconic.”

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 As Oren Evenhar, chief executive of Evenhar Development and Pine Builders, which is developing the building, said: “It’s a little something that reminds you you’re in Greenpoint. This happens to be a very fun neighborhood that appreciates art, and we wanted to do something that reflects that.”

Greenpoint isn’t the only neighborhood getting a blast of developer-commissioned art. New residential developments across the city are installing significant works by artists both emerging and established in outdoor plazas, lobbies, common spaces and model units. Where developers previously battled over big-name architects and all-out amenity spaces, from pet spas to hamams, many are now turning their attention to outsize art projects.

At 56 Leonard, the condo building designed by Herzog & de Meuron that resembles a teetering stack of boxes, a 20-foot-tall, nearly 40-ton polished stainless steel blob by Anish Kapoor (who recently bought an apartment in the building) will be squished between the sidewalk and overhanging second floor this fall. When the project started, “10 years ago, I thought we were pioneers to incorporate an artist into the design,” said Izak Senbahar, president of the Alexico Group, which is developing the building. “But since then, it has become a little more common.”


A rendering of 56 Leonard, the condo building designed by Herzog & de Meuron that resembles a stack of boxes, a 20-foot-tall, nearly 40-ton polished stainless steel blob by Anish Kapoor. CreditAlexico Group/Herzog & de Meuron

Commissioning a major work of art doesn’t come cheap, Mr. Senbahar said, admitting that the cost was in eight figures. But “I am in the business of creating a wow factor,” he added. “Is there a commercial side to it? Yes. We’re all in the business of designing a product that will resonate with buyers.”

At Sky, a 1,175-unit rental building at 605 West 42nd Street, the Moinian Group opened Sky Art last month, a temporary gallery in a connected 10,000-square-foot street-level retail space at 555 11th Avenue. Programmed in partnership with the exhibition producers Nicolai and Michael Frahm, it is presenting a major component of “Ugo Rondinone: I ♥ John Giorno,” a sprawling exhibition taking place in 13 locations across Manhattan, including the New Museum, High Line and Hunter College Art Galleries.

Sky also has a collection of works by blue-chip artists scattered throughout its public areas, including a bronze polka-dot pumpkin by Yayoi Kusamaout front and works by Sol LeWitt and Günther Förg inside.

“We wanted to create more excitement for the project and the neighborhood,” said Mitchell Moinian, whose family developed the building. “We will always, as a family and a company, be creating art spectacles and activations.”