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New York Tried To Make A Happening But It Didn’t Happen.

The art world just can’t shake free.

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Vanessa Beecroft's unshown work at Terminal 5.  

Back in the golden age of New York art controversies, all you had to do was spatter a canvas with elephant dung or plunge a crucifix in a jar of urine, and you were off to the races. This year, though, the mordant joy leached out of the familiar spectacle of the paint-by-numbers art-world fracas. The Terminal 5 exhibit, at the Saarinen-designed former TWA terminal at JFK, featured Jenny Holzer and other veterans of the nineties museum wars. It even had a preemptive public controversy, when JetBlue, which manages the terminal, managed to disqualify VB54, Vanessa Beecroft’s installation of African-American women in chains, before it was mounted. Yet the whole event had an abortive, pro forma feel, not at all unlike the reunion tours of once-incendiary punk-rock groups. And then the Port Authority pulled the plug on the show after its opening gala, when marauding art-world punks drunkenly defaced some walls and vomited on the premises. Silly kids: First you get the foundation grant, then you scrawl and upchuck on your chosen surfaces, and then the work gets displayed properly, behind the velvet ropes with TV news standing by to record the ensuing controversy. In the art world, as in every other outpost of celebrity culture, timing is everything.


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