Lower East Side

Election Day!!

Chris Marte in Chinatown. Photo courtesy of martenyc.com

Chris Marte in Chinatown. Photo courtesy of martenyc.com

The District 1 race for New York City's local elections today has involved a unique amount of participation by the art community, and by art galleries in particular. Zoning and gentrification are key issues in the race for District 1, which encompasses the gallery-rich neighborhoods of Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Soho and Tribeca. Christopher Marte, now 28, grew up on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side.

Marte's support among the art crowd in the district took off after he participated in events held by the community group Art Against Displacement, which was founded by the owner of 47 Canal gallery. Marte has subsequently enjoyed the support of a number of art galleries located in the district, including Gavin Brown's Enterprise, James Fuentes, Bodega and Essex Street.

Regardless of the outcome, Marte's campaign has served as a case study of how art galleries can constructively participate in political affairs at the community level.

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..."