On Friday night, Slacktivist John Penley was on hand for the Outsiders art show at 282 Bowery, the former Adams Restaurant Supply, next to be transformed into what I like to call "Pastis East," a certain magnet for evermore SATC fans and those who worked so hard to transform the Meatpacking District into MePa.
With no placards, chants, or crowds, the silent protest looked a lot like part of the show. Something Penley himself observed, chuckling as he taped dollar bills to the "gallery" window, each bill graffitied in black Magic Marker with the words "worthless," "eat the rich," "riot." Every time he taped another dollar, a flurry of cameras snapped him in action. It might have been performance art.
In fact, it was better art than some of what I found inside, much of which looked like senior-year final projects.
Though I did enjoy Jonathan Yeo's pornographic Paris Hilton and especially his lovely leaves, which at first glance look like nothing more than an homage to autumn, but on closer inspection reveal pornographic ins and outs. If I'd had an extra $14,000 to spare, I might have bought the light-blue one. And here's where Penley's protest gets its meaningfulness.
The artists on display at the Outsiders show are in no way outsiders. They are insiders, well paid, represented, and collected. Some were talented and if you can get $65,000 for a dirty collage of Paris Hilton, go for it. But Penley's point is well taken.
As he said to the Post, "This is not street-level graffiti or poor starving artists from the area... They're all rich. Paul Insect's last works were bought by Damien Hirst for $1 million. And they are all Brits. There are plenty of local downtown artists more deserving."
Joey Skaggs suspects the show has launched a Banksy "hoax" around the neighborhood. A Banksy mural just went up in SoHo, too, but if it's painted by the media company that does H&M and Diesel ads, is it really graffiti art? Lazarides, the curator of the Outsiders show, also represents Banksy. Such a coincidence.
Watching Penley tape up the bills, I heard a smug young man say to his date, "I'd like to rip those dollars right down and then you know what I'd do? I'd go right out and give them to a homeless person."
Moments later, an actual homeless person, a crusty kid, swooped in, and like a seagull snatching french fries from a beachside picnic table, grabbed handfuls of dollars, slamming the window and twisting balletically to grab even more, before running off down the Bowery.
Penley watched him go and, chuckling, began taping up more dollars.
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