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Brooklyn Museum: We Can't Afford to Mount Street Art Show

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The Brooklyn Museum announced on Tuesday that it had canceled its Art in the Streets show due to lack of funds.

The exhibition, the first U.S. museum show to chronicle the history of graffiti and street art in cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and São Paulo, is currently on view at The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. It was scheduled to be mounted at the Brooklyn Museum in the spring of 2012.

“This is an exhibition about which we were tremendously enthusiastic, and which would follow appropriately in the path of our Basquiat and graffiti exhibitions in 2005 and 2006, respectively," said Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman in a press release. "It is with regret, therefore, that the cancellation became necessary due to the current financial climate."

A museum spokeswoman said it wasn't able to secure a significant amount of funding for the show to cover the extraordinary shipping costs from California and installation costs to put up the exhibition, which would have taken up two floors of the museum. The museum hasn't yet lined up another exhibition to show in place of Art in the Streets.

Fans of graffiti aren't happy about the museum's decision but they're not surprised.

"Graffiti usually gets thrown on the back burner and the finer arts, which I love also, they always get pushed up front," said Rafael Perez, a Brooklyn native who goes by the graffiti name of Tatu X-Men.

He hoped that the museum would figure out a way to bring the show to Brooklyn. "Let the Brooklynites see that our, our art form is one of legitimacy and one of beauty and one of light and love," he told WNYC. "And once people acknowledge that and embrace it, we can go even further with it."

Steven Harrington, who edits the blog, said it was sad news but that it was only a matter of time before a show like Art in the Streets comes to New York.

"The city's cultural importance as an historical birthplace for an art movement that went global and continues to evolve is undisputed," he said. "We'll just have to see who steps up to the plate."

The show, which was curated by Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose, has been controversial in Los Angeles because some have argued that it glorifies vandalism. In New York, Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., among others, called for the Brooklyn Museum show's cancellation.

Not even the ladies' room was off-limits to graffiti artists – the museum's bathroom stalls were tagged by French artist André as part of the exhibition. (Photo by Carolina Miranda)

At MOCA’s graffiti survey exhibition, Art in the Streets, not even the restrooms are off-limits from the artists. (Photo by Carolina Miranda)

Updated 6/23/11