Gen Art cashes in on hip image

Org. hoping to gain a more commercial audience

HOLLYWOOD — New York’s ultratrendy Gen Art organization has often grappled more with identity than image. Is it a festival showcase? An arbiter of fashion taste? A fine-arts collective? Or the hippest party planner in town?

One thing is sure, Gen Art functions are filled with beautiful people tuned in to the latest trends. You’ll as likely see the Hilton sisters as you will celebs like Chloe Sevigny and avant-garde icons like Laurie Anderson at their events.

But the org, launched nearly 10 years ago as a showcase for visual artists, is attempting to shed its hipper-than-thou party rep while re-creating itself as a national brand with market clout. While it bills itself as catering to the “hip city dweller with disposable income and who likes to enjoy life to the fullest,” Gen Art also is emerging as an important resource for the commercial world.

The change in attitude has less to do with losing its Gen-X scenester image and more to do with enterprise. The org sees itself as having the power to deliver corporate America’s dream demo: 21-35, single, male/female, affluent and cosmopolitan. Last year saw $1.1 million in sponsorship revenue; 2002 will triple that number, confirm organizers.

Companies feel that their products are reaching just the kind of habitues who make Gen Arts events, like its annual film fest in April, so dynamic.

“The Gen Art Film Festival makes every other festival look like a senior citizens dance,” says director Peter Mattei, whose “Love in the Time of Money” opened the event this past year. “My screening was completely overbooked with such a young high-energy audience — we felt like rock stars for one night.”