Art world angst as a dozen galleries soaked with ‘blood’ and…
A slew of art galleries across New York City have been hit with anti-Israel graffiti and daubed with red paint — yet some gallery owners have controversially chosen to keep the attacks secret.
Insiders are divided on whether to dismiss the perpetrators as a nuisance and ignore them, or decry what they see as rank antisemitism. Some gallery owners say that they don’t want to lend credibility to the vandals by publicizing the attacks, and still others say that as artists, it would be hypocritical to repress expression.
The galleries range from small hipster operations on the Lower East Side with no obvious ties to Middle Eastern politics to a grand Fifth Avenue institution headed by a prominent Jewish leader.
Over the last couple of weeks, some of the galleries have been postered with signs quoting purported Palestinian death tolls and the words, “Stop selling to Zionists. Stop working with Zionists,” while the elite Pace gallery was scrawled with the word “Intifada” in red letters. Many more have been splattered with red paint, apparently intended to represent blood.
The vandals seem to have targeted Pace, which had to close for the day to remove the graffiti, over its representation of Israeli artist Michal Rovner, according to ArtNews. The gallery posted Rovner’s video work, called “Signals,” which calls for a return of the hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks.
“Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the exterior of our 540 West 25th Street gallery was vandalized,” the blue-chip gallery told Page Six in a statement. “The vandalism was extensive enough to necessitate the gallery’s closure while we complete clean-up efforts. The safety of our staff and visitors to our galleries is of the utmost importance, as is our commitment to fostering a safe and open workplace that respects differences of thought within our community.”
It continued, “We are a gallery that consists of a community of artists and employees, many of whom are actively engaged in socio-political issues and attuned to global events. With this diversity comes divergent viewpoints. In cases of disagreement, we remain committed to supporting meaningful civil discourse.”
A group called Writers Against the War Against Gaza covered the front of the German and Austrian art museum, Neue Galerie, on the Upper East Side in red paint and simultaneously posted a “logo” on social media with the name of its owner, Ronald S. Lauder, doctored as “Ronald SLaughter.“
Lauder is the president of the World Jewish Congress, the website of which says it is an “international organization connecting and protecting Jewish communities globally, in more than 100 countries.”
Upper East Side gallery Lévy Gorvy Dayan has also been attacked. In October, its owners had spoken out against an open letter in support of Palestine on Artforum due to it only representing one side.
“We are distressed by the open letter recently posted on Artforum, which does not acknowledge the ongoing mass hostage emergency, the historical context, and the atrocities committed in Israel on October 7, 2023—the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust,” they wrote. “We denounce all forms of violence in Israel and Gaza and we are deeply concerned over the humanitarian crisis.”
(The editor of Artforum was fired after the Oct. 19 publication of the letter. The mag released a statement saying, that the letter was “misinterpreted as being reflective of the magazine’s position” and acknowledging that it had “led to significant dismay among our readers and community, which we deeply regret.”)
The art community has been split on how to respond to the attacks.
Page Six spoke with art world insiders who are horrified that the general public and even many in the art world are unaware of what they view as a spate of hate-fueled vandalism, and compared it to the “marking” of Jewish businesses in Germany before the Holocaust.
“It’s familiar,” said one. “The people who did that [in Germany] were proud of it and thought it was for the greater good as well.”
Meanwhile, Lyles and King was among the Lower East Side galleries hit, and its co-founder Isaac Lyles told Page Six that it didn’t release a statement on the matter or contact police because he supports the vandals’ freedom of expression and freedom of opinion, regardless of their message. “That’s what gallery spaces are for,” he said.
He added that he didn’t believe that Lyles and King had been specifically targeted and that it had been hit as part of a swath of galleries in the neighborhood that were affected.
Regarding the gallery’s connection to Middle Eastern politics, he said only that it has “collectors of all backgrounds.”
Others hit included 56 Henry, Maxwell Graham and David Zwirner.
Another gallery owner told us that they believed that their building was targeted for no reason other than that “it’s a hot area [for galleries] and [the vandals] knew there were openings the next day.”
“I don’t think it speaks to [the gallery owners’] politics,” they said. They said they used a power washer to remove the paint quickly and put the incident behind them. “We just didn’t want anyone to virtue signal on our backs,” they said of the vandals.
They added that the galleries had joined forces to help each other clean up the mess. “If anything, it brought the galleries together,” they said.