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NY Street Art Takover

April 29, 2009

Last Saturday I was lucky to be able to take part (at least marginally) in a great project organized by the Public Ad Campaign. Dozens and dozens of artists and volunteers descended on Manhattan (at least from Midtown down) and first whitewashed a significant number of corporate posters and advertisement spaces (all of which were technically illegal), and then went back hours later and covered them with art. Part of the idea was to show the city that these spaces could be used for something way more interesting, engaging, and ultimately more democratic, than advertisements. Turns out 4 people ended up getting arrested, 2 whitewashers, a videographer, and one of the artists. It’s interesting to me that the whitewashers took the biggest hit for destroying the ads, not the artists, who were doing graffiti, something which the city claims is much more criminal.
Personally I was feeling the whitewash more than the art part, but that might be because I’ve been in a serious “Less Is More” mood of late, and I really like the visual breathing room the whitewashing created. For me in was enough to allow the city to project its own ideas onto these newly blank canvasses, there was no need to immediately fill them back up. I guess in this way I’m thinking more in line with the European anti-advertising movements that have developed in the past 10 years, like Stop Pub in France, which regularly covers ad space with blank white posters.
There has been a bunch of media coverage about the project, but the best 2 places to read about it are on the Public Ad Campaign’s own website, and on Animal NY’s blog. I’d love to hear what other people think. Both about ad creep and ways to combat it, but also the differences and similarities between corporate advertising and street art, so much of which has basically become advertisements for the artist’s current of future art world career.


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