Tony Shafrazi is known for a number of items the most famous of which being his attack on Picasso’s Guernica in 1974. A lesser known incident was his commission of the artist Zadik Zadikian to cover 1,000 bricks with gold leaf at a museum in Teheran, Iran.
In an odd twist these two incidents, one of symbolic desecration and the other of faux bullion, came together when an artist (or wannabe artist) who claimed a relationship with Zadikian threw a few gallons of gold paint onto the cast iron and glass façade of Shafrazi’s then Noho (Manhattan, North of Houston) gallery. Note 1: Shafrazi has since moved his gallery to new digs in Chelsea. Note 2: Shafrazi is also known for his connection with Andy Warhol, Dennis Hopper and Keith Haring.
Through connection w/ an artist friend who moves in those circles we got the call to come and remove the gold paint from the façade. It was a hurry up job, we had to get in there before either the paint dried fully or the television news crews actually caught on to the affair. The task was not quite as simple or straight forward as most graffiti removal gigs as the “artiste” who seemed to want as much happening as possible for his protest was present for the full duration of the deconstruction of his vandalism... I mean, excuse me, his work of ART.
We can only surmise how much he had practiced the dance-arc of throw of paint prior to the execution in a sort of Jackson Pollack enthusiasm. The canvas in this case being vertical and a somewhat permanent attachment to the street environment within a soon-to-be Historic District.
When I say the artiste was present for the de-construction I mean in the sense that across the quaint cobble street he parked his 1970s era convertible Cadillac that was painted in leopard colors (the hand-applied paint technique on the car was sophomoric and of little intrinsic expression) with all sorts of zoo-like fluffery on the interior and he proceeded each day to dance around in leopard skin tights, his hair cut like a razorback and bleached gold-blond, with a clunky camcorder on his lithe shoulder while he video-taped the process of the work. This was before YouTube and before cell phones with video cameras and I can only rely on the vision of my faltered memory.
The small crew, there are only so many mechanics that can be fit to work across the width of the usual cast iron façade of 20-25 feet, very little aware of their role in an ‘art happening’ -- or even aware of what an art happening is -- went diligently to work with paint stripper, water blast machines (noisy) and decked in full rain gear, boldly-yellow -- pants, coats and hoods. The artiste made his noise on the street, danced around and recorded the deconstruction event. He was lucky he did not get dragged into a back alley and clobbered a few times.
I am reminded of the incident this morning because tenants in the building on the upper floors participated by throwing small flower pots off of their fire escapes. Nobody was hurt in the process, as I remember, but the crew certainly did complain. They did not complain about the crazy man dancing around on the street, whom they mostly found mildly amusing, but they were concerned that they not get hit in the head. I shared their concern for personal safety.
I am reminded of the flower pots as I contemplate a possible future gig where we worry that monkeys may throw bananas at us as we work below them. If monkeys can type out Shakespeare then I am certain that they can mimic post-modern art.