Rolex Sculpture 2009

October 9, 2011, 11:33 am

Artists Occupy Wall Street for a 24-Hour Show


For weeks, a growing collection of protesters have tried to get their grievances heard on Wall Street — even if the police have prevented them from establishing a physical presence on the fabled street.

On Saturday night, the Occupy Wall Street movement managed to gain a temporary foothold on Wall Street, courtesy of an art show partly inspired by the group’s protests.

The show was held inside a landmark building built in 1914 as the headquarters of J.P. Morgan, across from the New York Stock Exchange; it has been empty for about five years.

The show, called No Comment, was scheduled to be up for only 24 hours, from Saturday evening until Sunday evening. It combined art that addressed a wide variety of political themes with pieces that were derived directly from the recent protests.

The organizers included Marika Maiorova, who arranged to use the former bank building in September for a show reflecting on the events of Sept. 11, 2001; and Anna Harrah, one of those who had been participating in three weeks of protests, aimed at criticizing inequities in the financial system.

The idea for the show came, Ms. Maiorova said, when her September show was disrupted to some degree by the maze of metal barricades set up by the police to help control marches by protesters.

She joined with Ms. Harrah, who had joined Occupy Wall Street’s art and culture committee. The two put out a call for submissions and ended up with dozens of pieces of work, including paintings, illustrations, photographs and video installations.

Items inspired by the protests included a collection of cardboard signs created by demonstrators, a large spray-painted banner reading “Occupy Wall Street,” and a plate that had been at the protesters’ stronghold at Zuccotti Park, which carried the message, “If you need money take some,” and also held a handful of dollar bills.

One of the artists who assisted in putting the show together, Lee Wells, contributed an installation consisting of two tents and American flags. It was a commentary, he said, on the fact that the police had decreed that the protesters sleeping in Zuccotti Park could not erect tents.

Ms. Maiorova said that some of the pieces of art could be sold at a silent auction, with most of the proceeds going to the artists but some being donated to Occupy Wall Street, or to her own organization, Loft in the Red Zone, which had rented the raw, cavernous space inside the Morgan building.

As crowds strolled through the show on Saturday night, three men with badges walked past barricades set up outside, entered the show and looked around. Soon, the streets outside were filled with police vehicles and uniformed officers.

Inside the gallery, Ms. Harrah gazed at the crowd and reflected on the irony of the show’s setting.

“As soon as I saw this place, I said let’s make something happen here,”
she said. “It seems only right to occupy this space.”