Well this is an interesting turn of events: the New York Daily News, the very paper that ran an editorial calling for the Brooklyn Museum to cancel its planned presentation of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MOCA) historical survey of graffiti and street art Art in the Streets—which the Brooklyn Museum subsequently did, supposedly due to budget problems, not political pressures—has published an editorial by Kathy Grayson, former gallery director for the new MOCA director and Art In The Streets orchestrator Jeffrey Deitch, bemoaning the cancellation and asking that another New York museum step in to host the show.
To the highlight reel! Firstly, Grayson notes that the exhibition’s exuberance will leave even its detractors smiling:
The artworks in the show, which range from Keith Haring’s legendary subway drawings to Kenny Scharf’s black-light “Cosmic Cavern”; paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat to Dash Snow’s daring photography (whose posthumous contribution to the show I organized), are full of wild and wonderful energy; I can’t fathom anyone walking through this fun-fest without being buoyed up by its optimism. How could anyone be upset by an exhibition so life-affirming?
She then suggests, quite rightly, that a the first survey of graffiti by a major American museum is, by its very nature, irrevocably tied to New York, and for it to not be shown here makes no sense:
This movement was about empowering people who had no voice and no visibility to take back public spaces. Imagine being on a subway platform as a festooned carnival of a painted train came charging into the station. Imagine, instead of posters advertising romantic comedies, Haring’s lyrical drawings. Graffiti was born in New York; this exhibition could help paint this exhilarating chapter in the city’s history.
She goes on to dispel widespread fears that the show would lead to a wave of vandalism in the neighborhoods around the Brooklyn Museum:
Many of the artists featured have never illegally destroyed private property or touched a can of spraypaint. Many make murals that rehabilitate dilapidated communities. And many who started out as graffiti writers went on to make complex nongraffiti works that capture the same renegade spirit, transformed into sculpture or painting.
But probably the best part comes when she throws caution to the wind and gets polemical:
It is ludicrous to think that an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum would have inspired gangs of graffiti goons marching down Flatbush Ave. You know what inspires tagging? Bad architecture. Commercialism. The sanitized state of the city.
Grayson concludes her editorial by stating that, “Hopefully, another city institution will step up. MoMA, are you listening?” What about 5Pointz-adjacent PS1? Or the New Museum? Or, even, Dia Beacon? So many possibilities, one of which will hopefully pan out.