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SASTER tag on a Graham Dalton work at Seventeen Gallery's booth at the Armory Show.
SASTER tag on a Graham Dalton photowork at Seventeen Gallery's booth at the Armory Show.

WHO IS THE ARMORY SHOW ART TAGGER?

Mar. 15, 2012

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Overall the mood was cheerful at the Armory Show this past weekend, Mar. 8-11, 2012, but all was not well in at least four booths, where a graffiti writer tagged artworks with big black letters reading SASTER. Without getting caught, the man struck New York’s Peter Blum Gallery, two Scandinavian galleries and two works by Graham Dalton at London’s Seventeen Gallery. Armory organizers said they thought the graffiti was “isolated to one day.”

Though the fair was buzzing with the news the day that it happened, and someone snapped a picture of the culprit, the Amory Show has declined any official comment, apparently out of concerns that the incident would reflect poorly on the fair’s security, or even prompt copycats. Blum and Seventeen galleries also didn’t return requests for comment.

It’s “really bad behavior,” said Carlo McCormick, author of Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art, in an email. “On the streets there's a pretty consistent profile for toys who fuck up other people's work -- white, clueless, frustrated, confused types.”

So who is SASTER? According to Brooklyn leather-apparel designer Stern Rockwell, it’s an identity he created decades ago as a tribute to another street artist known as SAST, who has now mostly retired from the scene. Rockwell attached the “er” suffix to make it his own and ascribed the phrase “Streets Are Saying Things” to the acronym.

Ten years ago he launched a lifestyle website -- streetsaresayingthings.com -- to post photos, news and interviews with street artists. Now, Rockwell says, fans have adopted the tag as their own. Sometimes he posts SASTER sightings on the website, which can also be accessed via the URL saster.net.

“I think it’s nice that people are giving props; it’s a reminder that graffiti is still here,” said Rockwell by phone from Hong Kong, where he says he’s been working since well before the Armory Show. When sent a photo of the tag, he said it definitely appeared to be a SASTER, but he didn’t know whose it was. “Looks nice though!” he added.

Rockwell was unapologetic, to say the least. All artists are “putting it out there, putting stuff on the walls,” he said. “It’s open to the public and open to opinion. If you put it out there you have to expect certain things to happen.” That said, Rockwell doesn’t think everything is fair game, including property belonging to children and the elderly. But even then, “some young ones raise the bar anyway.” 

In this case, then, the “streets” are saying things -- but exactly what they’re saying remains a mystery. 

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