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Artist Takeshi Miyakawa released from custody • Brooklyn Paper

Artist Takeshi Miyakawa released from custody

Art prankster: Artist Takeshi Miyakawa was arrested on Friday for putting up a sculpture on a tree that police believed resembled a bomb. A judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation and had Miyakawa detained at Rikers Island.
Photo provided by Louis Lim

Think you’ve seen some crazy art — this guy’s project earned him a residency at Rikers Island and a mandatory psychiatric evaluation.

Greenpoint designer Takeshi Miyakawa 50, was released on Wednesday after spending five days in jail for allegedly hanging plastic “I Love NY” bags with battery-powered lights, sparking a bomb scare on Bedford Avenue last Friday.

Cops cordoned off three blocks of the Northside’s prime retail strip for several hours and called in the bomb squad to investigate a plastic bag and wires spotted hanging from a tree. Investigators first considered the art project a “suspicious package,” then later determined it was harmless.

Hours later, cops say they spotted Miyakawa as he was securing a second LED-illuminated shopping bag on a light post at Bedford Avenue and Lorimer Street and took him into custody.

Prosecutors charged the artist, who was born Japan and had no prior criminal record, with reckless endangerment, planting a false bomb, and criminal nuisance.

But Brooklyn Judge Martin Murphy did not set bail and instead put him behind bars for 30 days and ordered the designer to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He was released after five days.

A police source said he is baffled by the judge’s decision to keep Miyakawa at Rikers, since other burglary and graffiti suspects have been released from custody in hours.

“He told us his intention was to produce artwork,” said the NYPD source. “He cooperated completely.”

Art critic Hrag Vartanian says that the mental health evaluation is disturbing and the judge clearly does not understand contemporary art.

“The only reason they might be doing something more than usual is because there were electronics involved,” he said. “It’s ridiculous that they would overreact to a situation like this. The authorities are not being educated on what artists use and what is considered art.”

Miyakawa studied architecture at Tokyo University before coming to New York to work in a design firm. He makes high-end furniture inside his studio at Manhattan Avenue’s Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center and builds models for world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly, including the scale model for Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar project.

Miyakawa’s friends describe him as a charming and old-fashioned gentleman who just got a cell phone this year and still doesn’t know how to use it.

“He’s the kind of guy that does something and if you have a problem with it, he’ll apologize profusely,” said Louis Lim, a designer who considers Miyakawa a mentor.

Miyakawa has not discussed his intentions for the bag project with the press, but Lim said it was intended to coincide with Design Week and that the artist had placed other similar “I Love NY” bags elsewhere in the city.

More than 1,450 people signed a petition demanding the artist’s release from jail and 3,367 have “liked” a “Free Takeshi” Facebook page, as of Tuesday.

Before Miyakawa’s release, attorney Deborah Blum said his spirits were good considering the circumstances and that he wanted to thank his friends for their support.

His allies said he should have been released shortly after his arrest.

“The charges are greatly inflamed,” said Lim. “He’s been held for more than three days for something that should be classified as at the most a fine from the city or a citation.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

Art threat: Police cordoned off Bedford Avenue on Friday when they noticed a suspicious package affixed to a tree.
Photo provided by NYPD

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