Graf Life

An impromptu museum pops up as street artists seize a building they once illegally tagged

A few pieces mildly commented on the deal makers—Jace's giant mousetrap baited with bags of money, D*Face's super-sized dollar bill, cleverly altered to mock, and a mannequin executive half-risen into the ceiling, his soles (souls) painted with gold dollar signs—but at an opening night party, the artists were all jubilant, packing the joint without a hint of mourning. WK summed up the general feeling: "A city changes, but there's always a new neighborhood."

As for the developers, they seemed both relieved and astonished. In a pale blue cocktail dress, Cummings was beaming, having admitted earlier to being "starstruck." Elias promised that everything would be thoroughly documented—not only photographed but collected in a book (published, he quickly added, for neither profit nor promotion). And Cummings was considering commissioning work for the lobby or even the condos themselves; already she'd talked to WK about some possibilities. A staircase in her own apartment, too, would be getting the rubber-band treatment from Zimmerman.

With plans to clean the facade still months away, a million-dollar question (give or take another ten) must wait for an answer: will paint and posters appear on the walls again? Schiller, a marketing executive whose instincts lie in the positive spin, downplays the possibility: "I don't think the artists will go back and hit a building just because the address is 11 Spring." Cummings, who considered but decided against providing a special art wall as too "impractical" (i.e. messy), is matter-of-fact. "We can't physically stop them," she says, and then notes, if condo sales go well, the problem won't be hers for too long. For its part, the city is stepping up the pressure; a new law, officially on the books in January, requires owners to remove graffiti or face fines. Another one, still only a resolution, proposes to make graffiti a felony.

As an artist who's tagged the walls for the last fourteen years, Michael DeFeo first suggests, dolefully, that the art's return "would depend on what the new surface is like," but then brightens when he remembers another place just a few blocks away, the Candy Factory on Wooster Street. "That's been continually bombed," he exclaims, and you sense that, despite the new laws, he and his comrades may soon be establishing a new shrine.

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