The Real Estate Show Was Then: 1980 Favorite 



Apr 17 2014


New York, NY

James Fuentes

55 Delancey Street

Lower East Side

Through April 27

This messy scrapbook of an exhibition reprises “The Real Estate Show,” a semifamous exhibition that opened on New Year’s Eve 1979 in a vacant, city-owned building on Delancey Street. It presents manifestoes, fliers, signs and other ephemera along with works and re-creations of works from that show by some 40 artists, including Jenny Holzer, Peter Fend and Walter Robinson, among those now better known. Hardly any of it is visually compelling, but the back story is interesting.

On Christmas Eve 1979, long before the coming of whitewall galleries and cute boutiques to the Lower East Side, some artists belonging to the activist group Colab broke into 123 Delancey Street. There, they surreptitiously installed an exhibition intended to protest the city’s big-money plans for Lower East Side redevelopment. (One neighborhood resident at the time was James Fuentes, then a boy of 3.)

After a New Year’s Eve opening, the show’s organizers returned to find the front door padlocked by the police. Six days later, the organizers held a news conference, which happened to be attended by the German artist-activist Joseph Beuys, in town for his 1979 Guggenheim Museum retrospective. Fearful of embarrassing publicity, city officials invited the artists to select another empty building to remount the show. Eventually, they found 156 Rivington Street, which became the permanent home of ABC No Rio, a collective dedicated to social and artistic activism. All this is chronicled by Alan W. Moore, one of the original “Real Estate Show” organizers, in a fascinating essay published for the present exhibition. What’s not directly addressed is the role played by educated bohemians in paving the way for the kinds of capitalist development that they traditionally abhor. That’s a rich paradox for the current show’s viewers to mull over.

Posted by lvu200 on