More and more attention is being directed towards exploring the benefits of art in urban and suburban spaces. Does public art influence the value of property? If so, do South Africans pay enough attention to the need for art in urban and suburban neighbourhoods?
In their fascinating 2016 article, Preis et al. reported that “relative increases in mean residential property prices are significantly associated with higher proportions of ‘art’ images per neighbourhood. The study was conducted by quantifying the relation between property prices and the amount of art-related images uploaded to the social network, Flickr, in specific neighbourhoods.
It seems clear that public art does have a significant and quantifiable impact on property prices. But what are the causal links between the apparent rise in property value and public art?
In the United States, artists are increasingly called upon to revitalise run-down neighbourhoods – and it has proven an effective strategy. A shining example is the case of Greenwich Village in New York. Once a bohemian enclave, its reputation as a hub of creative expression caused a boom in the development of luxury apartments and triggered an influx of businesses that caused a sharp rise in property and rental prices.
The presence of art changes people’s perceptions of a place. What might be considered a dilapidated building, or a drab and unimaginative neighbourhood, can be significantly changed by only a few public works of art or an art gallery nearby. The status of a neighbourhood can thus be elevated, helping people to look beyond stigmas and see the true beauty of a place. When perception changes, behaviour follows suit. People are more open to dormant business opportunities, and businesses soon follow the lead of artists who have moved into these neighbourhoods. Furthermore, once a particular place has established itself as an artists’ hub, it is much more likely to attract tourists, who in turn contribute more to the micro economy of a neighbourhood.
Art’s ability to reanimate dilapidated spaces has been proven. But what about wealthier neighbourhoods? In the context of the Western Cape, one might ask whether people are sufficiently aware of art’s influence on people’s experience of a place, on the local economy, and, ultimately, on the value of their properties.
With Estates of every shape and form springing up around towns like Stellenbosch, Somerset West and Paarl, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish one from another. Only a handful, however, have shown an appreciation for art as a way to add value to people’s lives.
Nooitgedacht Village is one. This unique lifestyle estate is making a name for itself as a place of peculiar beauty, not only due to its pristine winelands surroundings and its meticulously designed architectural styles, but also its innovative inclusion of art in the public domain. Located less than 10km from Stellenbosch, the estate has, from the outset, made magnificent bronze sculptures part of their aesthetic. It is now home to Bronz Editions, a foundry affiliated with such iconic artists as Theo Megaw, Fana Malherbe, Barry Jackson and Anton Momberg and Lionel Smit.
The developers of Nooitgedacht Village have identified the potential of art, not only to grow a local economy, but to improve the quality of people’s lives, an ideal which should be at the core of city planning at large.