I still can't quite get my mind around this story, although I first heard the particulars much earlier today: It's essentially the tale of an owner of an art gallery asking the police to get rid of an artist who was selling his work on the sidewalk a few doors down from his business.
If I didn't know Eric, I'd even be tempted to think this entire story was his invention, the perfect extension to one of his most interesting and familiar bodies of work.
For four years the young New York artist Eric Doeringer has been producing a series of work he calls "bootlegs." He sells the pieces outside [and sometimes inside] galleries, museums and art fairs in a conceptual project which has enjoyed some real critical and commercial success. The individual works take the form of scaled-down, very-affordable, crafted versions of the most recognizable products of the contemporary art market's biggest and priciest stars. His gallery is normally a sidewalk and a folding table, his public is a wonderful melange which can include the casual passer-by, the sophiticated patron or even some of the artists referenced in the work (some of whom have become his collectors).
Doeringer has a show in Los Angeles opening next weekend, he will be in an art fair in Zurich the week after that, and we can expect to see him at Miami Basel later in the month.
Apparently Mike Weiss, who runs his eponymic gallery on 24th Street, where our young artist has usually set up his shop, had complained about [what I would describe as the performance element of] Doeringer's art the weekend before this and had threatened to call the police if he returned the following Saturday. According to Doeringer, Weiss told him he didn't like him selling work outside, "because it attracts people." Doeringer says he thought at first Weiss was joking. Eventually he realized that he meant that Doeringer's presence would attract other artists selling their work there as well. Weiss complained about his high rent and how the artist was making it difficult for him to sell art.
In spite of the pressure, Doeringer was certain he was within his rights in what he was doing and so he returned this weekend. At some point in the afternoon on Saturday he was approached by the police, who told him they were responding to a 311 complaint. They informed him he would have to leave [later he learned that he only had to file some paperwork and register as a vendor, collecting sales tax, in order to be legitimate].
He packed up his work and confronted Mr. Weiss, who admitted he had called the police. He said that he didn't like "seeing people walking around with tiny paintings," while he was paying high rent for his gallery and, "trying to sell $30,000 paintings."
When Doeringer told him he was certainly going to let everyone he knew in the art world hear about what he had done, Weiss said, "If that's the way you want to play it, I'll call the police whenever I see you anywhere."
Gotta get rid of those pesky artists; they can so get in the way of the real business of art. But this one's so pesky that he's now determined to be back on the street when he's in the city and weather permits, even though he hadn't originally planned a continued open-air presence in Chelsea.
[image from Eric Doeringer]