Arnold Lehman, 2004, from the America series by Andres Serrano
Artnet’s controversial art critic, Charlie Finch, questions whether Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman “has the balls” to reconsider his cancellation of Jeffrey Deitch’s monumental graffiti exhibition, Art in the Streets, which ended a successful run at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles last week and was supposed to come to Brooklyn in Spring 2012. The wildly popular street art survey broke attendance records at MOCA, while many New Yorker’s saw the Brooklyn venue as a homecoming celebration for a large number of East Coast artists that are credited with starting the movement.
Finch blames an “anal retentive” Mayor Mike Bloomberg and “his consigliere,” police commissioner Ray Kelly, for pressuring Lehman to cancel the exhibition, even though the director cited financial constraints related to the economic downturn when pulling the plug in June. According to the New York Times, however, it was a Daily News editorial in May that stirred fears graffiti artists would run rampant through New York City’s streets destroying private and public property while the show was on view, which caused City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. to threaten to cut the city’s $9 million annual support of the museum if it proceeded with its plan to present the show.
At the time of the Brooklyn Museum’s cancellation of the show, Deitch reportedly said, “We will find a way to bring it to New York. If not in a museum, we’ll just do it on our own.” The New York art underground still has its fingers crossed.