"Art in the Streets"
Does Brooklyn Museum czar Arnold Lehman have the balls to reschedule "Art in the Streets," the Jeffrey Deitch-guided graffiti survey show, whose move to his museum Lehman canceled last spring, now that the show has broken all attendance records at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, including those of Andy Warhol, and produced 2,500 new memberships at MOCA?
Could Lehman, looking across town at the Met's record-breaking Alexander McQueen exhibition, an effort born out of esthetic radicalism, now reimagine street art as the positively radical rescuer of the Brooklyn Museum in the fall of 2012? Make no mistake, Lehman cancelled "Art in the Streets" for one reason only: pressure, including financial pressure, from anal retentive New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his consigliere, police commissioner Ray Kelly, who never misses a high-profile New York museum opening, by the way.
Yet, if you glide around the streets of New York, you might notice a different kind of city-sanctioned graffiti, the copious street markings and stacks of traffic signage installed by yet another governing control freak, NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn. I worked with Janette on Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign, when she was only 23, the daughter of two prominent New York journalists.
Even then, Sadik-Kahn enjoyed the dangerous personality of a budding commissar, combining streams of grinning charm with an organizational obsession focused on her own advancement. Now, at age 58, when I cross Second Avenue in the East Village, trapped in the no man's land of parked cars, with bicyclers whizzing behind me and taxicabs careening in front of me, I curse Janette for her ignorance of New York as a town made for, and serving, pedestrians, and pray that some brave tagger will add art to the vile white arrows and Orwellian directions that have turned the asphalt into her personal dictatorship.
As I write these words, I fear not Bloomberg and his powerful nannies, yet Arnold Lehman soils his britches in his opulent museum office, quaking with dread. One ball, Arnold, is all you need, not even the requisite two. My old pal Lee Quinones, one of the stars at L.A. MOCA, will gladly tag your gonad with a smile when you restore "Art in the Streets" to its natural throne in Brooklyn.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).