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Art galleries targeted in Los Angeles neighbourhood battle

A major anti-gentrification protest movement aimed at art galleries is under way in the Mexican-American and working-class Los Angeles neighbourhood of Boyle Heights.

The protests, which began in the summer, have mostly been aimed at 11 contemporary art galleries, many of which have arrived in the past two years, including Maccarone, Nicodim Gallery, and MaRS. Rallies with protesters carrying signs with slogans such as “keep Beverly Hills out of Boyle Heights” have also targeted nearby higher-end galleries such as Venus Over Los Angeles and United Talent Agency’s Artist Space, which have been symbolically served fake eviction papers. As resident Delmira Gonzalez told LA Weekly in July, “We know that if the galleries go up, the value of the properties go up.”

Although art galleries are a notable feature of many gentrified neighbourhoods, studies (such as a 2012 report on New York by the National Endowment for the Arts with the Brookings Institution) have failed to quantify, or even explain exactly, how galleries make real estate more valuable. The findings confirm correlation but not causation.

Boyle Heights has a rich tradition of protest as a centre of the Chicano movement of the 1960s. One mainstay of that era, Self Help Graphics & Art, has come under fire for working with newer arrivals, but its associate director Betty Avila told the Los Angeles Times that the non-profit has little in common with “these new commercial galleries that have thousands and thousands of dollars passing through”.

Eva Chimento, who opened Chimento Contemporary in September 2015 and has only two employees, is weary of the confrontation. “I have a lease. The landlords are not going to let us out of those leases. We’re stuck here together.”