Five key takeaways from our new report on the role of cities in the US art ecosystem

Is it better to be an emerging artist in New York or San Francisco? Where do women do best? A new report by Arts Economics and UBS reveals how five metropolitan centres each exert a different influence.

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US art ecosystem

New York dominates

If anywhere can lay claim to be the art capital of the United States, it’s New York. More than a quarter (26%) of all US art institutions, commercial and non-profit, can be found there.

Analysing data over a decade from Wondeur AI, which researches “the dynamics of value creation and biases” across the art world to track and predict fluctuations in value, the report found that over one third of the US’s active commercial galleries are based in New York (compared with just one tenth in Los Angeles and one twentieth in San Francisco).

Covering a five-year period from 2017-2021, the research revealed that New York hosted more than a third of all art exhibitions in the US.

But then New York is home to one of the world’s largest concentration of high-net worth and ultra-high-net worth individuals, and by extension collectors. And even among those not resident in the city, it remains the place to which they travel for exhibitions and fairs (with Miami second).

Chicago has the most gender-diverse art scene

When it comes to gender diversity, Chicago leads the field. In line with their minority share globally in the dealer sector, the share of female artists in exhibitions at commercial institutions in the US was 38% between 2017 and 2020. (Non-profits did slightly better at 43%.) Yet in Chicago, the proportion across all its commercial galleries was 43%. In Miami, meanwhile, the share of women in gallery exhibitions was just 28%.

Miami debuts female artists

Miami stood out as the only city where emerging female artists were more likely to be exhibited for the first time over their male peers in both the museum and commercial gallery sectors, indicating that it could be an important testing ground for some artists that go on to be successful elsewhere.

Los Angeles galleries are the most risk averse

When it comes to willingness to show work by emerging artists, New York galleries had the highest risk appetite of the five cities, while those in Los Angeles were found to be the most risk averse. However, Los Angeles museums were much more willing to take risks with the artists whose work they exhibit, with a risk profile similar to those in New York.

While those in San Francisco and Chicago are the likeliest to sign new artists

New artists might want to note that though 36% of commercial galleries across the five cities focus on emerging artists, the highest share was to be found in San Francisco and Chicago (both 39%).