Surprise: Artists’ Occupation of Non-Profit Artist-Run Gallery Goes Poorly

10/24/2011 1:09 PM |

Inside #Occupy38. (Photo via Animal)

  • Inside #Occupy38. (Photo via Animal)

Saturday during a lecture at Artists Space, an (excellent) artist-run non-profit gallery at 38 Greene Street in Soho, attendee and performance artist Georgia Sagri—who famously interrupted a provocative performance at MoMA PS1 last year—began distributing copies of a poem urging attendees to “Take Artists Space,” which about 10-20 people (herself included) did for 28 hours before being kicked out last night at 8pm. Dubbed “Occupy 38,” it was not related in any capacity to Occupy Wall Street.

The ill-fated and -conceived occupation, dubbed #Occupy38 and, of course, taking the online form of a Tumblr blog, posted a manifesto-like statement after vacating the gallery disparaging the radical art space it had taken over—and at which Sagri has shown in the past.

Earlier, the Executive Director and his minions (apparently ignorant of their own exploitation and unwilling to join in the occupation) had been rudely shoved aside by a fraction of the movement which attempts, in sometimes distorted ways, to develop a critique of the existent. Clinging to the veneer of legitimacy still provided, in some minds, by the non-profit industrial complex, he took advantage of the occupiers’ patience and tolerance to hinder, as best he could, any real flourishing of rebellion in the space he had formerly controlled.

But the majority of the New York art world that heard about the takeover seems to have sided with the gallery, which posted the following message on its homepage last night after the occupation had ended.

Artists Space Occupation

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Since Saturday, October 22 at 5pm Artists Space has been occupied by a group of initially ten individuals under the collective title “Take Artists Space”.

Artists Space has for nearly 40 years worked at the forefront of critical discourse addressing the socio-economic context that artists work in. The organization has continuously acted with conviction and integrity.

The group currently occupying Artists Space have done so without our consent. So far it has not been clear to Artists Space staff or its board what purpose or cause this occupation serves.

As a self-critical organization we constantly discuss the purpose of our organization, and the need to assume a critical position in relation to the current economic situation and dominant value systems. We reflect this position in our programs, be it last year’s Charlotte Posenenske exhibition, the recent exhibition on the work of Christopher D’Arcangelo or the forthcoming “Identity” exhibition. We believe that our shared ideas, ideals and values and organizational structure are well equipped to critically address and challenge the complexity of today’s economy within and beyond the art world.

After participation of all staff members in now 24 hours of discussion with the occupiers and enduring physical threats and theft of property, and more so as a result of this being an agendaless occupation, we jointly concluded as per this evening to ask the occupiers to leave the Artists Space property so that we can get on with our work. They have complied with this request, and have left the building.

Artists Space

Moral of the story: only occupy places whose occupation is in keeping with the Occupy Wall Street movement’s intent, not places people are actually attached to, that have a by and large positive role in the community and that, by strong-arming into putting up with your misdirected radicalism, will come across as victims of your desperate attempts at subversive performance happenings.

Also, here’s a video announcing the takeover from the Occupy 38 YouTube channel.