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Culture
 
 
 

The culture of New York City is shaped by centuries of immigration, the city's size and variety, and its status as the cultural capital of the United States. Many major American cultural movements first emerged in the city. The Harlem Renaissance established the African-American literary canon in the United States, while American modern dance developed in New York in the early 20th century. The city was the epicentre of jazz in the 1940s, abstract expressionism in the 1950s and Indie Rock in the 2000s, and the birthplace of hip hop, punk rock, and the Beat Movement.

New York City is an important international centre for music, film, theatre, dance and visual art. The city has more than 2,000 arts and cultural organisations and more than 500 art galleries. Wealthy industrialists in the 19th century built a network of major cultural institutions, such as Carnegie Hall and the Whitney Museum of American Art, that became internationally established and that sustain cultural life in the city today. Artists have been drawn to the city by opportunity, as well; the city government funds the arts with a larger annual budget than the National Endowment for the Arts, and New York is a major centre of the global art market.

Architecture

The building form most closely associated with New York City is the skyscraper that saw New York buildings shift from the low-scale European tradition to the vertical rise of business districts. New York City has about 5671 skyscrapers, with 48 completed building over 200m, the most in the world. Surrounded mostly by water, the city's residential density and high real estate values in commercial districts saw the city amass the largest collection of individual, free-standing office and residential towers in the world.

New York has architecturally significant buildings in a wide range of styles. These include the Woolworth Building (1913), an early gothic revival skyscraper built with massively scaled gothic detailing able to be read from street level several hundred feet below. The 1916 Zoning Resolution required setback in new buildings, and restricted towers to a percentage of the lot size, to allow sunlight to reach the streets below. The Art Deco design of the Chrysler Building (1930), with its tapered top and steel spire, reflected the zoning requirements. The building is considered by many historians and architects to be New York's finest building, with its distinctive ornamentation such as replicas at the corners of the 61st floor of the 1928 Chrysler eagle hood ornaments and V-shaped lighting inserts capped by a steel spire at the tower's crown. A highly influential example of the international style in the United States is the Seagram Building (1957), distinctive for its facade using visible bronze-toned I-beams to evoke the building's structure. The Condé Nast Building (2000) is an important example of green design in American skyscrapers.

The character of New York's large residential districts is often defined by the elegant brownstone rowhouses, townhouses, and shabby tenements that were built during a period of rapid expansion from 1870 to 1930. Stone and brick became the city's building materials of choice after the construction of wood-frame houses was limited in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1835. Unlike Paris, which for centuries was built from its own limestone bedrock, New York has always drawn its building stone from a far-flung network of quarries and its stone buildings have a variety of textures and hues. A distinctive feature of many of the city's buildings is the presence of wooden roof-mounted water towers. In the 1800s, the city required their installation on buildings higher than six stories to prevent the need for excessively high water pressures at lower elevations, which could burst municipal water pipes. Garden apartments became popular during the 1920s in outlying areas, including Jackson Heights in Queens, which became more accessible with expansion of the subway.

Art

The 1913 Armory show in New York City, an exhibition which brought European modernist artists' work to the United States, both shocked the public and influenced art making in the United States for the remainder of the 20th century. The exhibition had a two-fold effect of communicating to American artists that artmaking was about expression, not only aesthetics or realism, and at the same time showing that Europe had abandoned its conservative model of ranking artists according to a strict academic hierarchy. This encouraged American artists to find a personal voice, and a modernist movement, responding to American civilisation, emerged in New York. Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), photographer, Charles Demuth (1883-1935) and Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), both painters, helped establish an American viewpoint in the fine arts. Stieglitz promoted cubists and abstract painters at his 291 Gallery on 5th Avenue. The Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1929, became a showcase for American and international contemporary art. By the end of World War II, Paris had declined as the world's art centre while New York emerged as the centre of contemporary fine art in both the United States and the world.

In the years after World War II, a group of young New York artists known as the New York School formed the first truly original school of painting in America that exerted a major influence on foreign artists: abstract expressionism. Among the movement's leaders were Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), and Mark Rothko (1903-1970). The abstract expressionists abandoned formal composition and representation of real objects to concentrate on instinctual arrangements of space and colour and to demonstrate the effects of the physical action of painting on the canvas.


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