Opinion: Get this fella an NEA grant!


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New Yorkers are plenty steamed at artist Yazmany Arboleda, whose exhibition ‘The Assassination of Barack Obama’ led to attention from the New York Police Department and the Secret Service. Arboleda was questioned and left to go about his business by an admirably First Amendment-attentive NYPD. The WashPost’s David Segal has the best description of the reasoning behind the artist’s stunt, which has ‘many layers,’ he says:

For the first phase, Arboleda needed a gallery in Chelsea to display ‘Assassination,’ with the intention of having it promptly shut down by authorities. The problem: No gallery in Chelsea would display his art, though not because they found it offensive. ‘They said, ‘We discover our artists, they don’t come to us,’’ Arboleda says. Not one for waiting, Arboleda and his friends went online and invented two galleries, purportedly in Chelsea, purportedly exhibiting his ‘Assassination’ show. Viewing at these fictitious venues was said to be by appointment only. Anyone who phoned or e-mailed received a callback from Arboleda, who dolefully explained that the show had been closed down. Inevitably, this led to publicity. Michael Musto mentioned the show in the Village Voice, implying that he liked the outrageousness of the art, and Martin Peretz blogged about it for the New Republic, implying that he didn’t. Arboleda was profiled in the Miami Herald with the headline ‘Artist Makes a Big Leap.’ But that pales compared with the ink and pixels generated by the two-day rental at 264 W. 40th. Arboleda said he was a little surprised by the vehemence of the reaction, in part because the idea of the show had been run through the media machine already, even if it had never actually been seen by the public. He’s received some death threats, of course.

Interestingly, when Arboleda explains his own motivation, he does so through the kind of why-do-the-media-obsess-about-Britney-and-Lindsay-when-there-are-so-many-important-issues rant you can hear in any bar in America:


‘My mission as an artist is to raise dialogue and conversation about substantive things,’ he says, staring through arty glasses that did not have any lenses. ‘There’s so much media time spent on superficial things -- like celebrities. My point is to bring substance back.’

Courtesy of ArtsJournal.