Street Art, Buddhism, and Drywall

There’s something very Buddist about what’s going on inside the graffiti mecca at 11 Spring Street today. And something at once wonderful and sad.

For months, some of the best street artists in the world have been decorating the 30,000 square foot space with new work. That work then went on display for just 3 days. And on the fourth day (today) it’s all being painted over as the building goes condo. Shades of the beautiful Tibetan sand mandalas that, after weeks of painstaking creation, are almost immediately destroyed as a symbol of impermanence.

In a way, it makes sense that the art inside 11 Spring would meet a similar demise — it’s yet one more run over in the ever-morphing, supremely impermanent graffiti form. Still, when a mandala is dispersed in the traditional stream of running water, it takes forth blessings to the world. When the graffiti at 11 Spring is dispersed, it makes way for the blessings of multi-million dollar condos. I certainly don’t mean to dis any of the artists or organizers involved in this fantastic project, but it is just a little bit sad.

To be fair, it has been argued that much of the work will be preserved behind drywall and serve as a sort of time capsule. But does it have to end that way? I mean, street art has been taken seriously in art circles for a long time now. And Banksy’s stuff has been making bank at auction of late. How could the inclusion of one-of-a-kind work from stunningly creative artists (Fairey, Swoon, D*Face, Momo, more) do anything but sweeten the pot for folks already dropping millions on a spanking new Nolita condo? But, nah, they want their walls as white as they can get ’em.

I can’t understand the way those people think. But, then, maybe that explains why I’m not rich. Fortunately, metric tons of images from the inside of pre-condo 11 Spring can be found on Flickr and Streetsy.

photo by p0psharlow

2 Responses to “Street Art, Buddhism, and Drywall”


  1. 1 Aparna

    I thought art was ‘in’ for rich folk again. Just reading about the madness at the art fair (art basel or something like that) going on in Miami now makes me believe that if this was marketted (is this a real word?) a little better perhaps the rich folk would have paid to keep the walls as is. Or perhaps the kind of rich folk interested in that sort of thing would be buying up those condos.
    Wonder if the current owners knew this is what was going to happen. Either ways its pretty damn sad that its going away in something as utterly mundane as white dry wall.

  2. 2 Jason

    Yeah, I thought art was the in thing for rich people these days, too. And isn’t street art the hippest form?

    One of the rules the Wooster folks put forward, though, was that the event could not be commercialized in any form, so that probably ruins the possibility of marketing the condos as an art purchase more broadly. I can’t say I blame them, but that does make it tough to attract folks who would be interested in keeping the building as-is if they weren’t already paying attention.

    Still, I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the buyers actually move in. I hope some of them pull down the drywall and let the building breathe. I know I would. :-)

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