New York artists plan to protest Giuliani exhibit

Tuesday, May 5, 1998

Street artist R...
Street artist Robert Lederman.
A group of artists protesting New York's permit policy for art vendors plans to move their months-long campaign in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to a small gallery exhibiting Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's photographs.

The exhibit, “A View from the Capital of the World,” opens Friday at The Leica Gallery, located in SoHo, in a premiere closed to the public. The photographs include scenes from New York streets.

The artists, members of Artists' Response to Illegal State Tactics or A.R.T.I.S.T., say the show was arranged merely to counter media attention of the city's arrests of group members in front of the art museum in recent months.

“We decided to protest his exhibit because [Giuliani] continues to have artists arrested on a daily basis, is in court trying to institute a new licensing scheme for artists in violation of our rights and at the same time is posing as an artist and arts advocate,” Robert Lederman, A.R.T.I.S.T.'s president, said. In March, A.R.T.I.S.T. filed a $200 million civil-rights lawsuit against the city, Giuliani and the police and parks departments, claiming that a city permit policy limiting the number of vendors in front of the art museum violates their free-speech rights. During nearly three months of protests, Lederman claims he's been arrested 31 times.

Last month, a U.S. district judge turned down the group's request for an injunction to stop “the pattern of daily arrests” until the civil case is decided. Lederman said that he expects to be arrested again Friday.

“Free speech here is truly on a theoretical basis,” he said. “You have it only if you are willing to go to jail every time you speak.”

Repeated phone calls to Giuliani's office were not returned.