View Full Version : Guggenheim and Metropolitan 'ART' Attack

June 9th, 2004, 11:43 AM

June 9, 2004

A nationwide manhunt is under way for a twisted artist with a political agenda who left disturbing paintings of President Bush and ex-President Clinton on the walls of four major museums, including New York's Guggenheim and Metropolitan, The Post has learned.

The amateur curator's stealth-like donations in Manhattan Saturday followed similar art invasions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Friday and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

The wacky spree has prompted a sweeping investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI, as well as local police in three cities, sources said.

The paintings 15 inches by 9 inches portray the commanders-in-chief on a background of ground-up dollar bills.

A source said typewritten notes were found nearby political rants about "money" and the artist's "protest against genetic profiling."

In all four cases, the culprit also left behind sick taunts that claim the paintings contained his bodily fluids, sources said.

"I mixed my semen in some acrylic gel medium and I painted it in the right hand corner of this piece of art," read part of one note found just after noon Saturday at the Guggenheim, 1071 Fifth Ave. "It is an artistic reference to the silent power of the biological sciences."

A source said the note had references to Web pages dealing with money, including one to moneyfactory.com, the official Internet page of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

The Guggenheim discovery prompted a response by cops, the NYPD Hammer Team, which normally probes suspected bio-chemical hazards, ESU officers, agents from the Joint Terrorist Task Force and Secret Service agents.

Some 90 minutes later, a similar painting, "Fear and Consumption," was found hanging inside an isolated wall of the Metropolitan, near an exit in the Modern Art galleries section.

A label detailed how it was made: "Acrylic, legal tender and the artist's semen."

Museum brass were outraged. "The Metropolitan is a repository for the greatest works of human creativity over the last 5,000 years," spokesman Harold Holzer said.

"It is not a bulletin board. For us it is clearly an unwelcome demonstration of self-aggrandizement."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings

June 9th, 2004, 11:44 AM
"I mixed my semen in some acrylic gel medium and I painted it in the right hand corner of this piece of art," read part of one note found just after noon Saturday at the Guggenheim, 1071 Fifth Ave. "It is an artistic reference to the silent power of the biological sciences."

:x Nasty!!!

June 9th, 2004, 03:54 PM
The wacky spree has prompted a sweeping investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI, as well as local police in three cities, sources said.


The Guggenheim discovery prompted a response by cops, the NYPD Hammer Team, which normally probes suspected bio-chemical hazards, ESU officers, agents from the Joint Terrorist Task Force and Secret Service agents.
I'm so relieved such a distinguished team of top cops is on this case.

June 9th, 2004, 04:25 PM
Operation Atlas (http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/atlas.html)

June 9th, 2004, 11:31 PM
June 10, 2004

Protest Art Left at Museums, Causing Brief Security Flap


An anonymous artist staged a one-person show at two of the city's leading museums last weekend. But the museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, said yesterday that they would not be pressing charges, even if they found out the artist's identity.

The Guggenheim called the police and local F.B.I. agents on Saturday after a museum guard noticed that a small mixed-media work had been taped to the wall on a passageway between two galleries with double-sided tape. A similar piece was found by guards at the Metropolitan, taped to a wall near the modern art galleries.

The painting at the Met, titled "Fear and Consumption," was described by Harold Holzer, a museum spokesman, as "a cartoonish, Warholish- influenced image of President Bush in front of a field of American currency."

The pieces were composed with a mixture of acrylic gel and semen, according to notes accompanying the works. The notes also explained the purpose of the installation: to protest genetic profiling.

The New York Post reported yesterday that similar works had been found at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Those museums did not return phone calls asking for comment.

James Margolin, an F.B.I. spokesman, confirmed that agents from the Joint Terrorist Task Force in New York had gone to the Guggenheim on Saturday.

However, he said, "we have no investigative interest in who the guy is who left these paintings in this museum," and added, "There is no federal criminal violation that we can perceive."

The Guggenheim called the police mainly because guards did not want to open a sealed bag containing a note, said a museum spokesman, Anthony Calnek. "We didn't want to unseal it," he said.

He said guards noticed the painting during routine strolls around the museum. "It's unlikely that the picture was up for more than a minute or two," he said. A small crowd of law enforcement officers converged on the museum.

The Metropolitan, however, needed only one detective to deal with its unauthorized painting. Mr. Holzer said the museum's guards opened the note before calling the police. "They're perfectly capable of handling any situation," he said.

For Mr. Holzer, the uninvited display was not so much an act of vandalism or political protest as of chutzpah.

"We have an acquisitions process that involves the curators of each department, the acquisitions committee of the board of trustees," he said. "To be very straightforward about it, this is outside the process."

But for Jon Hendricks, an artist and curator (for Yoko Ono as well as the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection), the taped-up paintings were a refreshing reminder of the thrill of protest art.

"I didn't see the work you're talking about, but it comes from this deep-felt need to convey a feeling of anger and disgust in the people who run our government," he said.

Mr. Hendricks once belonged to the Guerrilla Art Action Group, which staged art protests at museums and elsewhere in the Vietnam era. He recalled the "Blood Bath," after the My Lai massacre, a dramatization using animal blood that took place in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art. "Artists have the responsibility to do this," he said.

Mr. Holzer begged to differ. "In a city so crowded with art galleries, not to mention lampposts," he said, "artistic expression can be conveyed in hundreds of places without aspiring presumptuously to the Metropolitan Museum of Art."

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 12th, 2004, 01:39 AM
June 12, 2004

In Post-9/11 World, Police Star in Artist's Video


A video of Arthur Robins, left, being questioned by the police at home.

It looked as if it was going to rain.

That minor portent of gloom catapulted Arthur Robins into the middle of a police drama involving a mystery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an elite antiterrorist squad from New York's finest, George W. Bush and a possible case of sartorial profiling.

Ripped from the headlines? Well, yes. But this New York story played more like "Seinfeld" than "Law & Order," while tapping genuine concerns about police boundaries and behavior in a post-9/11 world. The half-hour of video on which Mr. Robins recorded part of his experience belongs, perhaps, to its own genre: call it sur-reality TV.

The beginning: Mr. Robins, a 50-year-old artist who often sells his work on the street, decided to set up shop outside the Met last Saturday. But on arrival the weather looked dubious. Realizing that he hadn't been inside the Met in years, he decided to leave his prints and paintings in his van and pay a visit. He spent an hour or so strolling through a special exhibition, "Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy," and then moved on to the Impressionist galleries.

Mr. Robins is a noticeable but not all that unusual type in a museum crowd: longish curly gray hair, jeans and almost always a tie-dyed shirt and cap. Last Saturday he wore a tie-dyed jacket, too. It was chilly.

Next stop, he thought, would be the armor collection. But instead, Mr. Robins found himself surrounded by security guards and a policeman, who took him to an unoccupied gallery for questioning: Had he been in Philadelphia recently? What was he doing at the Met?

He soon learned he was a suspect in the case of an unauthorized art hanging.

While he was touring the Met, guards there and at the Guggenheim discovered that someone had taped up an image of President Bush in front of a field of chopped-up United States currency. The paintings were accompanied by notes, sealed in plastic bags, that protested genetic profiling. Similar renderings had been discovered at museums in Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore. According to Mr. Robins, the guards told him a woman in her 60's had pointed him out as the culprit.

The guards then took Mr. Robins to an office and showed him the offending piece of art. They asked Mr. Robins if the painting was his. Until then, the artist said, he had been experiencing shock, fear, curiosity and even a little amusement. But the question of authorship hit a nerve.

"It was an insult," he said. "That piece was so cartoonish and trite. I don't do overt political art. I consider it a cop-out."

Plus, said Mr. Robins, who is a born-again Christian, the politics are wrong. "Out of 90,000 street artists in New York, they picked the one who doesn't despise Bush," he said.

After a half-hour, the guards told him to go.

Mr. Robins resumed his museum tour in the armor galleries. Then he called Robert Lederman, an old friend.

Mr. Lederman is an artist known best for the sardonic portraits he painted of Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor and for waging four successful federal lawsuits on behalf of the rights of street artists to display their work.

The two men met 15 years ago when Mr. Robins, then earning a living as a carpenter, saw Mr. Lederman selling art on the street and asked for advice. After that, Mr. Lederman became a political activist and Mr. Robins always supported him. But while Mr. Lederman was bold with 40 arrests (no convictions) under his belt Mr. Robins was cautious, willing to protest but not to confront. He has never been arrested.

Mr. Lederman advised Mr. Robins to keep a tape recorder at the ready, in case the police came to call.

That night, at 11 p.m., they did just that. Mr. Robins was startled to hear someone knocking loudly on the door of his apartment in Queens. He looked in the peephole and saw a badge. Five police officers walked in, no uniforms: three were wearing suits, one a sports jacket and slacks, and a fifth dressed more casually, in jeans.

Remembering Mr. Lederman's warning, Mr. Robins immediately asked the officers if he could videotape them. No problem, one said, just no faces. But nobody checked the viewfinder when Mr. Robins propped the camera on top of his television set, affording a full view of his living room, the art displayed on shelves and walls, himself, and his five visitors, faces included.

For several minutes the police rehashed questions Mr. Robins had been asked at the museum: Why was he there? Had he been out of the city recently?

Then, in one of those odd shifts that can make reality television so riveting, the discussion turned to why five policemen, including two from a terrorist investigative unit, were in Mr. Robins's apartment, unannounced and without a warrant, on a Saturday night. They acknowledged the crime in question if indeed a crime at all was small. "The criminality here is like this," one officer said jovially, putting his index finger very close to his thumb to indicate a very small amount.

But the world has changed. "The picture of Bush, the whole thing, people get worried," an officer explained. "Five or six years ago everyone would have said, `Pfft.' These days, an empty suitcase in Manhattan can cause mass hysteria."

They took a tour of Mr. Robins's studio, one floor down from his living quarters, and complimented him. "I actually do like your paintings," one said. "Hats off to you."

That seemed to be that.

A few days later, however, upon reading newspaper accounts of the protest art at the Guggenheim and the Met, Mr. Lederman called a reporter and told her Mr. Robins's story. The reporter and the artist met at a cafe in Greenwich Village, where they sat outdoors.

Shortly into the conversation, which Mr. Robins recorded on tape, a blue sedan pulled up next to them, with two men in the front seat. Mr. Robins and one of the men he had a mustache stared at each other briefly and then looked away. Mr. Robins said he felt he knew the man but couldn't place him.

The reporter looked at the man with the mustache. "Are you cops?" she asked.

He laughed. "No, we're from CBS News."

A few minutes later the blue sedan began to pull away from the curb. The man with the mustache called out, "You're looking good, Arthur."

Mr. Robins remembered who the man was. "That's McCabe!" he said. "He was one of the men who came to my apartment."

Sure enough, the two men with mustaches on film and in real life matched. But how did he know where Mr. Robins was meeting the reporter? He couldn't have followed Mr. Robins from Queens, because the artist had traveled by subway. Had he somehow overheard the two making arrangements by telephone?

The reporter called the Joint Terrorist Task Force and reached Detective Rich McCabe. He laughed at the suggestion that Mr. Robins's phone had been tapped. "I know you're not going to believe this in a million years, but it was a fluke," he said. "We were coming from a case going down to our office and we saw you. You're not writing this down are you? You're going to jam me up." (A nice "N.Y.P.D. Blue" touch.)

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's deputy commissioner of public information, said that Mr. Robins was no longer considered a suspect. Mr. Browne also said that it was ridiculous to mention that Detective McCabe said he was from CBS News.

"He was just joking with you," Mr. Browne said. "The guy is a 20-year homicide detective and now with the Joint Terrorist Task Force. He happened to be on his way back to their offices and he happened to spot the guy. That's all there is to it."

The reporter didn't want to jam up Detective McCabe. But then, the post-9/11 world is a risky place.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company