City yanks down pop art drug message

Russell King’s “public service announcement” — which is fastened to a city parking sign — has got people talking.
Community Newspaper Group / Natalie O’Neill

Sanitation Department bureacrats turned into the city’s harshest art critics this week as the city yanked down street artist Russell King’s mock street sign about drug use that the provacateur had hung on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.

The artwork featured a “Mad Men”-era gentleman saying, “I’m sexier than you ’cause I pop pills!!!” — but the city said it was an “illegal posting” that had to come down from its perch near President Street.

King’s faux “public announcement,” which was meant to be ironic, in case you didn’t get it, was installed last year as part of a bigger project that involved bolting art to dozens of city-owned poles across the country. Slopers didn’t really even notice the sign until last month.

As such, King thinks the city overreacted.

“It’s not any different than locking a bicycle to a pole,” he said. “It doesn’t damage or obstruct anything — and this is not exactly the scorge of New York City.”

Some Park Slopers echoed that idea — “I say, leave the guy alone,” said one commenter — while others called his work trite and sensational — “I have to question whether he could have delivered a better message.”

But nothing will stop King from claiming more signs in Brooklyn, he said.

“It’s not really such a horrible, terrible thing,” he said, explaining other cities such as Philadelphia have left them up permanently. “Taking them down is just small-minded.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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