A group of artists and activists known as the Chinatown Art Brigade—established in 2015 by Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu—have called out what they perceive to be racism in the current exhibition at James Cohan Gallery’s Chinatown location in New York.
The show is an installation by the Berlin-based artist Omer Fast that includes video and film, including a 2016 work inspired by the life and work of German photographer August Sander. The gallery’s press release notes that the exhibition features a change in the facade and interiors of the gallery to resemble “what they were like before gentrification: the waiting room of a Chinatown business with an eclectic aesthetic.” The gallery goes on to note that the installation is meant to address the following: “In a very tense political climate, this ambiguous gesture represents a futile attempt to roll back the clock and speak about community, citizenship, and identity.”
CAB criticized the exhibition in an open letter to the gallery. It stated: “Not only does this guise have little to no bearing on the actual works being shown, the choice of visual signifiers is a racist aggression towards the community of Chinatown that James Cohan Gallery is currently gentrifying.”
It also addresses the artist’s practice in the context of Chinatown: “As a gallery representing the non U.S., non New York based artist Omer Fast, it is reprehensible that you see fit to support this exploration of ‘temporal space’ while contributing to the displacement of low income tenants and business owners in Chinatown. The artist may be heavily invested in ideas of ambivalence, ambiguity, and the theatrics of performing authenticity, but let it be known that there is no ambiguity in the critical conditions residents here are facing today.” The writers close their statement with the hashtags #RacistGallery and #JamesCohan #ShutItDown. Their letter, issued on October 2, is available in full here.
On Sunday, October 15, dozens of protesters gathered at the gallery. According to DNAinfo, CAB’s Betty Yu read the letter aloud through a megaphone inside the gallery, while attendees held signs that read: “Racist art has no business here!” and “Racism Disguised as Art.”
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE here: https://www.artforum.com/news/id=71677