Local Residents Complain About Penis Mural on Broome Street (Updated)

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Over the holiday weekend, Swedish artist Carolina Falkholt painted a giant penis on the side of a building on Broome Street, between Forsyth and Eldridge streets. We’re already hearing from local residents who are less than thrilled about the Lower East Side’s latest street art installation.

On her Instagram feed, Falkholt wrote, “I have never heard so much laughter and seen so many happy faces behind my back when painting as for today doing this wall on Broome Street.” She tagged The New Allen, an arts foundation started by Franco Noriega and Milan Kelez of Baby Brasa, the Peruvian restaurant on Allen Street.

Naomi Pena, a longtime Lower East Side resident and president of District 1’s Community Education Council, is not impressed. She fired off an email yesterday to Baby Brasa, and copied local elected officials. Here’s part of that email:

While I happen to love and appreciate street art, your latest commissioned display is the most disgusting display of art I’ve seen. Contrary to what developers and the folks you see in the street, there are thousands of people in this neighborhood who are raising their children here. While I’m gathering you may not have any children or may not live here to have to walk by and see this, i certainly was not happy to have to explain to my 8-year-old twins what this was. I would hope your organization would at least provide some basic protocols for your artists when producing art… or at the very least implore them not to produce something that would piss off parents like your organization just did!

We also heard from Daisy Paez, a local district leader, who said she finds the mural appalling and totally inappropriate. She believes it should be removed.

Here’s more about the artist:

Carolina Falkholt has developed her art form of graffiti by combining painting, drawing, sculpture, performance, text, music and video. Her work challenges old ideas of gender stereotypes and the use of the female body. Carolina Falkholt (born 1977) is a Swedish artist known for her characteristic wall paintings. Her work has been included in multiple museum exhibitions, most recently in Wanås Konst, Gothenburg Museum of Art, and Eskilstuna Art Museum. She is represented by Galleri Thomassen in Sweden.

More to come…

UPDATE 12/27 11 a.m. Here’s what the artist told Channel 4:

In a statement to NBC 4 New York, Falkholt said the mural and another, which shows a more abstract depiction of a vagina on Pike Street, were “about not being ashamed of your body and who you are as a sexual being…

“Talking about these subjects in public space is a must for a healthy, nonviolent community/world,” she said. “And the dialogue created around feminist public art pieces raises awareness.”

“Art is one of the only places left where we can truly be free and discuss whatever difficult topics there are, since art has the ability to translate and transform language in any direction possible,” she said.

UPDATE 12/27 1 p.m. The Daily News reports that the mural is being painted over.

The building landlord ordered the cover-up at 303-305 Broome St. amid complaints from his neighbors that the anatomically-detailed painting was inappropriate… The grey paint-over job is likely to take two days.

According to city property records, 303 Broome St. is owned by prolific Lower East Side landlord/developer Samy Mahfar.

UPDATE 1:35 p.m. Here’s more from Channel 4:

It appears neither the artist nor the foundation ever got permission from the building owner to put up the provocative mural. When reached for comment Wednesday, a woman who answered the phone at the company that owns the building had no idea of the phallic painting. Within hours, workers showed up with scaffolding, apparently getting ready to paint over the mural. The workers said it will take them a day to get rid of it.

UPDATE 3:31 p.m. Franco Noriega, the chef/fashion model behind Baby Brasa spoke with The Independent:

A man called Franco, 28, told The Independent that he commissioned the mural, saying: “It is all about sexual freedom and really understanding human genitalia as a basic thing… The artist is a feminist and she usually paints vaginas but she decided to do this for many reasons. First of all to be comfortable and raise awareness about sexuality being something very normal. Also about sexual abuse because the penis is something used sometimes as a weapon.” Franco said he chose Falkholt for this particular piece “to raise a conversation about something that is taboo still in New York and the world… Half of the world has a penis so why would it be so controversial?” As for his feelings on the decision to cover the mural, he said: “It was always going to happen but I didn’t think it was going to be so soon. It really is a work in progress so it was going to change every two weeks until it became something completely abstract.”

UPDATE 4:10 p.m. Here’s Carolina Falkholt’s full statement, which she provided to Hyperallergic:

We live in cultures where sexual violence and sexual abuse are  constantly happening. And there are a lot of raped and abused children who have lost their voices due to the shame that comes with having their own bodies violated at a young age. No more bodyshaming. Talking about these subjects in public space is a must for a healthy, nonviolent community/world. And the dialogue created around feminist public art pieces raises awareness. Art is one of the only places left where we can truly be free and discuss whatever difficult topics there are, since art has the ability to translate and transform language in any direction possible.