‘We cannot underscore enough how offensive this is to the people who live and work here,’ the Chinatown Art Brigade said. Photograph: Kah Ean Chang

 ‘We cannot underscore enough how offensive this is to the people who live and work here,’ the Chinatown Art Brigade said. Photograph: Kah Ean Chang

By Nadja Sayej 

n Sunday, a group of protesters stormed an art gallery in New York’s Chinatown with signs that read “Chinatown lives are not poverty porn” and “Racist art has no business here”. They stood together to hold up a large, yellow banner that said “Racism Disguised as Art” written in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

The group was led by the Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB), a group of art activists targeting the James Cohan Gallery, where the Israeli artist Omer Fast has changed the outside to look like an old Chinatown storefront.

Meant to look like a dirty waiting room, the gallery features two broken cash machines, graffiti, shabby red lanterns, cheap plants and fold-up chairs.

The installation is meant to have “an eclectic aesthetic”, according to the gallery website, as the artwork “speaks about community, citizenship and identity”. But the protest group says the work maintains “racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown”.

The rise in art protests: how the gallery became a new battleground

“We cannot underscore enough how offensive this is to the people who live and work here,” the CAB said in a statement. “The artist’s choice to ignore the presence of a thriving community filled with families and businesses reduces their existence to poverty porn.”

Betty Yu, one of the organizers of Sunday’s protest, said the exhibition had upset local residents since it opened last month. The community of low-income immigrant tenants came and spoke about how disappointed they were at the exhibition.

“Chinatown is a 150-year-old thriving community that people built on their own,” said Yu. “When an artist equates our culture as garbage, it’s really insulting to the community.”

More than a hundred art galleries have opened in Chinatown over the past 10 years and are pushing out the locals. “We’ve mapped 40 new art galleries over the past two years and it’s accelerating,” said Yu. “Galleries are part of the system of gentrification.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE here; https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/20/chinatown-omer-fast-art-poverty-porn