An evolution-themed artwork that beautified an ugly scaffolding was ripped down by state officials who claimed the artists did their public service without permission.
On May 8, the artist group De-Fence installed wood cutouts of various flora and fauna on the eyesore scaffold that has surrounded the Empire Stores warehouse in DUMBO for two years. The work depicted a storyline of evolution, moving from small water creatures to a throng of birds bursting into flight.
Locals hailed the piece, but the more-important critics work at the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which removed the artwork on Monday.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” said John Jeffreys, president of Exhibitology Incorporated, which funded the project. “We didn’t really get permission to do it. Their reaction is one they have to take, but a bit of an over-reaction.”
Rachel Gordon, the regional director of state Parks, said she had to act only because the group didn’t bother to get permission, rendering the nature-friendly artwork vandalism.
“They never even attempted to get permission,” Gordon said. “We have lots and lots of art events, but you just have to ask for permission.”
The art project was timed to coincide with BKLYN Designs at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Water Street between Main and Dock streets, across from the decrepit Empire Stores, a Civil War-era building that is falling apart as the state decides what to do with it.
After state workers did their dirty work on Monday, locals were upset at the return of the “bleak fence,” Jeffreys said.
“Residents from the area were so sad that it was going,” he said. “If it’s an improvement and everyone likes it, can’t we listen to that and make it work?”
Gordon was undeterred.
“They vandalized state park property,” Gordon said. “And it was so unsafe; nobody seems to focus on that. It was not done with the safety of the community in mind.”area