Spring is sprung.

So what I wanna know is: did anyone tag 11 Spring last night? That would cause all manner of hue and cry, I expect. And be funny. That’s because there are very complex rules that I can never get my head around regarding that worst of misnomers: ‘street art’. Something about the primacy of marking previously unmarked spaces, and then defending them from further defacement as vociferously as a golf community owner’s association (oh, an aside — did anyone notice that whomever is defacing the Swoon pieces have hit the site on Rivington Street that she recently redid?). If I understand this right, it is sort of like pissing on your neighbor’s door and then getting mad if someone tries to piss there after you. We have a lot to learn from dogs, it seems.

11 Spring is — well, used to be — one of ‘those buildings’. Dotting the Manhattan landscape in fewer numbers every passing year (well, month, it seems now), everyone has a personal favorite, be it 421 6th Street, the Windermere, or the nearby 190 Bowery. They sit, hulking and mysterious, targets of our naïve wish of ‘authentic’ redevelopment, or just ghosts resonant with misheard or half understood stories of glories past, a life we thought would be even marginally accessible when we got here, but in point of fact was as rare and inaccessible as these relics.

A year or two ago, it was on the verge of crossing over, purchased by the scion of a publishing magnate. Not much happened in the way of renovation as we all looked on in disgust and envy as some rich asshole was about to make an 30,000 sq ft private house in the heart of NoLIta.

The building then took a far more pedestrian turn, being sold off to a developer who lowered the sights, planning a couple apartments, stainless steel yadda yadda eruo whatever. All the details will be published on Triple Mint, for those of you who can’t get enough of ‘high end residential’ development.

But in a bid to seem arty, or neighborhood friendly, or, most likely, cagey about future maintenance bills, the developers were apparently swayed by Marc and Sara Schiller of the Wooster Collective, a group dedicated to the chronicling and cooptation of street art worldwide, to allow one last gasp, handing over the building for what looks to be a lovely caged bird of, um, free expression.

For the next three days, you are free to live out your Julius Knipl fantasy, tromping around three stories of proof that New York hasn’t provided much in the way of innovative street art in a long goddamn time. Of course, our regular jailing strategy might have something to do with it, along with a lack of publicly funded art schools.

After this brief window it will be papered over, and the hidden imagery will be used to add to the marketing chic, while hopefully dissuading future generations from returning to what was the preeminent site for street artists in the New York for the past generation.

See, that’s smart. The building will be tagged, inside and out, even though for all the world it will look like nothing more than a Joseph Pell Lombardi hedge fund job. I assume the developers were savvy enough to not attempt to extract promises from anyone, but surely there are tacit understandings that it’s hands-off from here out, and the Wooster Collective will do their best to decry those do disrespect the memory of this show by, ironically, keeping the spirit of the building alive.

It makes me think of Gordon Matta-Clark, a man who never passed on a chance to remind institutional wankers that you shouldn’t challenge an artist known for being rebellious. I can’t find cite on line (so this is all going from memory of an Sorkin article somewhere), but back in the seventies, Peter Eisenman, the ur-Williamsburg trustafarian bad boy, flush with Nazi cash and legitimacy from thankfully dead PJ, started an alternative something or other art space, the IAUS. He invited Matta-Clark to participate in a show. Matta-Clark, best known for a project that involve splitting a house in half with a chainsaw, showed up and promptly shot out the windows with a shotgun. That was a apparently a bit too bad boy, and Matta-Clark was banished and the windows re-glazed before the opening.

Some of the artists I am sure rankled at the implied prohibition that starts Monday and extends indefinitely, or at least to the notion that a movement that is known best when its work is executed without oversight or extant restriction was working within at least some parameters (at least one chronicled it). Others, such as marketing-friendly Shepard Fairey, didn’t need any urging, overt or otherwise. And that is what usually bothers me when bandying about the whole art meme.

Granted, ‘fine artists’ are another big bunch of wankers who play this game with far more sophistication (since the sums involved are much larger). But so much of what one sees in this alterna-friendly, anti-establishment work just seems to be a training grounds for Mountain Dew ads. There are notable exceptions, like Bansky (and ESPO, a distinction I make that I acknowledge is completely arbitrary. I just like his stuff), but the prevailing attitude and aesthetic just reeks of what every illustration student in art school was like — they could draw really well (and, honestly, better than us), but could never be bothered to think.

So there is plenty of bullshit to be called on this project, but since the narrative that surrounds it is so devoid of critical inquiry, I’m sure there are plenty of petulant street art fans who will hear none of this. And it shouldn’t stop you from going. Given how bland and polished the rest of this area is, you will no doubt see some really incredible stuff. But don’t forget what a snow job a big part of this is.

And since you will be right across the street, stop in and see something perhaps even more radical, though far more subtle. Jen Bekman (disclosure: who is a friend, though probably not happy with the association after this post) is hosting the latest edition of the Hot Shots !, which is the most democratic and subversive emerging artist opportunity I know of downtown: rather than depend on mostly inaccessible school programs, insiders, friends, or people who expect favors, she finds art in a manner that must be truly frightening to Art Basel hangers-on — she invites strangers to submit. The results are shockingly contemporaneous in quality that what you would find across town. And she’s not going to hide it when it comes down Sunday.

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