the Netherlands vs NYC

Artist Laura Lappi on her experience working in the Netherlands as well as in New York City.

by Laura Lappi

I grew up in a rural area in Finland and have been living for the past 14 years abroad, first in The Netherlands and then the past two years in New York. I know it is a cliché but New York has always been an energetic and inspiring city for me as an artist, more than any other European cities where I have lived or visited. When I moved, the city felt like a home almost instantly.

 I studied in The Netherlands and after I graduated in 2006, I moved to Rotterdam mainly because it was known to be very artist-friendly city to live in, which has affordable housing and studio opportunities. When I lived there I paid $ 115 a month for a three-room apartment and even less for a good size studio. Needless to say that my biggest challenge of living in New York was to get used to the fact that major part of my monthly budget would go towards the rent. Despite the high price tag, I feel I have never worked so hard for my own artist career as now. I think that is partly due to tough competition and the fact of starting everything from scratch as well as having an expiration date of my stay. My current artist visa is valid for three years, which makes this period feel like a long and very expensive residency where you want to make the best of it.

 In Finland and in The Netherlands there are still many different artists’ grants available, which makes it easier to finance the artistic work, projects, exhibitions and residencies with external support even though you don’t want to be only dependent on that. The art market especially in Finland is still in its infancy compared to New York, people do not buy and invest in art that much. Artists in Finland are also required to pay for gallery and exhibition expenses. Most of the time the only way for artists to be able to keep the artistic work going is to keep applying grants while in New York it seems to be more possible to become self-sufficient.

 For me the New York art scene feels definitely more commercial and artists seem to be thinking more about what kind of art will sell than in Finland or in The Netherlands where the focus is more in creating something conceptually new and taking more risks. Since I moved here I have noticed that I started thinking in a more commercial way as well, which is not necessarily a bad thing. New York is also much more about success, who you know, where you have been exhibiting, and knowing how to use your elbows.