Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Graffiti and Muralism In NYC

Today’s WSJ has two articles on painting and public space. One on the attempt by graffiti artists to gain some respect; the other on muralism. Not quite the same of course. Upset that graffiti is viewed by many as a criminal act, graffiti activist Craig Dershowitz is forming a nonprofit, the Urban Art Foundation with the intent of “decriminalize art and at the same time promote it for future generations.” “Fashioning itself as an ACLU for those charged with graffiti-related crimes, the group plans to raise legal funds, create a database of attorneys and even attempt to turn some of the city’s high-profile graffiti spots into landmarks or protected areas.” It will be interesting to see how successful this nonprofit becomes.

Right below this story lies an article on murals, particularly those located at the northwest corner of the Bowery and Houston Street and owned by developer Tony Goldman. Goldman has chosen another artist, Barry McGee, to create an installment of murals on the same wall that used to house a mural by Shepard Fairey. According to Goldman, Fairey’s mural was attacked and defaced quite aggressively, forcing its removal earlier this week.

“I was angry about it,” he said of the damage done to Mr. Fairey’s work, “but when you’re out there, you’re out there. And when you are exhibiting in the streets you’re open to the public and you’re exposed,” he said. “My hope is that the work that is there will be respected. If there’s a message that ‘the street’ wishes to communicate, let them communicate it to me, and I’d consider making space for some valid discussion.”

Here’s a word of advice: try picking an artist with a modicum of credibility. Regardless, the question stands: was Fairey’s mural defacement due to Fairey’s hypocritical and cynical stance vis-a-vis art, copyright, and public space? The treatment of McGee’s mural will tell.


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