Tensions Rise in Gentrifying Chinatown over Art Exhibit

The current exhibition by Omer Fast, "August," has caused a firestorm of debate. Mounted at James Cohan Gallery in the Lower East Side of New York, the centerpiece of the exhibition is an immersive installation that alludes to the gallery's Chinatown location.

Courtesy of ArtNet News: Installation view, “Omer Fast: August,” James Cohan, New York, 2017. Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle.

Courtesy of ArtNet News: Installation view, “Omer Fast: August,” James Cohan, New York, 2017. Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle.

A large protest headed by community groups including Art Against Displacement, Decolonize this Place and the Chinatown Art Brigade was mounted last weekend.

The Chinatown Art Brigade issued the following statement:

"The conception and installation of this show reifies racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown. Your appalling exhibition should be shut down.”

The artist, who immigrated from Israel to the US as a teenager, has issued a response:

"...The point of this work was never to insult or incite but to talk about identity and immigrant experience – my immigrant experience – warts and all, in its complexity and in its contradictions, pitting essence against appearance. For what it’s worth, I think this is what this work does..."