Lucas Walters, a co-owner of Tutu’s bar, experienced quite the unpleasant surprise when he came to work a couple of days ago. At night, somebody had hung a huge billboard just above the mural he has been co-curating with Beth Tully, famed producer of Fountain Art Fair. The mural on the Varet Street side of the Tutu’s building was created by Austrian street artist Nychos and features a whale so amazing and complex you could stare at it for hours. No wonder the mural quickly became one of the most photographed walls in Bushwick, occupying “the front pages of the Internet”- Reddit for days. “We wanted to create a Bushwick version of Bowery/Houston graffiti mural, and to bring world-class artists here ” explained Beth Tully, who was outraged about the uninvited guest to this party: a black and white rectangular photograph with a distinct Uncategorized.com sign underneath it.
The photograph of rapper Method Man hanging on Tutu’s wall is part of the Uncategorized project by Chi Modu. “Modu, who is best known for his iconic photos of major hip hop artists, was searching for a way to make his art accessible to more people,” his website explains. And so the photographer hired a billboard company to place several of his large photographs on walls in Brooklyn and Manhattan. “[It’s] like graffiti, but legal,” reads the About section on his site. “I am an artist, not a business owner,” Chi Modu told us today on the phone. “I am not connected to the billboard company. I simply hired them and did not see this location until the billboard went up,” he explained. “This is a work of art, which can be subjective. Tutu’s people may or may not like it.”
“It is everything I hate about advertising,” said Lucas Walters on the phone. “It’s tacky and untactful. And I want the neighborhood to know we have nothing to do with it,” he continued. “We were really happy nobody had messed with the mural, but this…this is called side busting in the street art world.”
Lucas talked to their landlord about this only to learn that the billboard company has rented the space for six months, and that Tutu’s can’t do anything about it. We contacted the building’s co-owner Richard Guishard for a comment but so far we have not received an answer. [Correction on Oct 1, 2013: Richard Guishard doesn’t own the building. The owner of the building is Andy Chau.]
“Right now the billboard displays my art but in the future it will display commercial elements,” pointed out Chi Modu. Chi Modu is not sure how long his billboard will remain in place. “It can be one month, or it can be extended,” he told us.
We attempted to contact Prince Media Co, the billboard company who rented the billboard space to find out what’s coming up next after Chi Modu photograph is gone. Unfortunately, without success.
You can have objections to the placement of Chi Modu’s art and you certainly don’t have to like his Uncategorized project. But perhaps Chi Modu’s photograph is a good option when compared to the dozens of tacky billboard options Prince Media Co could have placed there, and potentially will place in the future.
Also it should not be forgotten that it was Tutu’s landlord who leased the space above a curated mural to a billboard company, and showed absolute lack of respect to art and the project of Lucas Walters and Beth Tully. Because who cares about art if you can have a couple of hundred dollars in your pocket? Oh, how very Bushwick landlord of you, dear Tutu’s landlords…