The party’s (not quite) over for the Art Parade


By Raquel Hecker

It’s not everyday you get the chance to see Fischerspooner naked except for some strategically placed donuts. But last Saturday, the art band/collective could be seen in a golf cart in various states of undress as New York’s wildest galleries and strangest performance venues spilled their guts onto West Broadway for two hours for the third annual Art Parade. Begun by Jeffrey Deitch of Deitch Projects, along with PAPER magazine and Creative Time as a way to rekindle Soho’s artistic legacy and kick off the fall art season, some 800 artists participated in this year’s parade — almost double the amount that marched last year. At least 7,000 art enthusiasts watched on as familiar Downtown performers marched through Soho alongside the Scissor Sisters and pop artist Kenny Scharf. Previous Art Parades have culminated in performances and an after party for spectators and participants, but this year the parade ended at Deitch Gallery on Grand Street.

Genuinely transporting moments of the parade included Brooklyn designer Anney Fresh’s giant black Space Kittys, Killer and Katso. The full-body costumed characters moved in jittery steps, as though the cats were not accustomed to walking on earth. Later in the parade, art collective Friends With You and muralist David Choe’s four black blimps loomed ominously overhead, marked alternately with leering smiley faces and frowning faces with X’s for eyes.

Funnier still were multimedia performance artists Bob Snead and Seth Gadsden’s group of Washington Generals, a reference to the real-life defunct basketball team from D.C. known for having the biggest losing streak in sports. Their opponents were nine people dressed as seven-foot tall sticks of dynamite. Little Red Riding Hood’s Scooter Squad by painter Asuka Ohsawa was an enchanting gaggle of women in red capes on customized wooden scooters, lending a touch of innocence that stood out amidst the bawdier entries.

Several participants were repeat offenders from last year’s parade. Sculptor E.V. Day’s Dateable Inflatable, an enormous blowup doll with outsize lips, made an encore appearance, as did sculptor Nick Van Woert’s papier maché Bobble Head Collective, whose members frequently stopped to make their huge heads kiss. The crowd-pleasing performance group the Dazzle Dancers were also back, wearing little else but silver sequined leg warmers. Due to a glitter glitch (they left it at home by mistake) the Dazzles weren’t completely sparkly until halfway through their parade, when $300 worth of dazzle caught up to them. “If we had had the glitter on from the beginning of the parade — that would have been nice,” said Pretty Boy Dazzle, a k a Justin Christopher, “but [instead] we had this great moment in the middle of the parade where we [threw] glitter up in the sunlight … and at all the sparkly dazzle helpers and the crowd. They ran screaming.”

Stray glitter wasn’t the only upset in this year’s Art Parade. The day before the parade, street artists who usually sell their art on West Broadway were asked by the New York Police Department not to set up shop on Saturday. “It was like they were mugged,” said Robert Lederman, President of Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics. Soho street artists make the bulk of their earnings on Saturday, thanks to tourists and weekend shoppers. Lederman estimates that out of 100 artists usually set up along West Broadway, only ten percent of them disobeyed the police request and were open for business on the day of the parade. Lederman was also dismayed that no street artists were asked to participate in the parade — though there is an open call for artists on the Gallery’s website. “The idea that this is some kind of art parade representing New York artists is ludicrous,” said Lederman. But in the same breath, he admitted he found the parade “quite entertaining. On another street I would not have had a word to say against it.”

Street artists may not have been invited to take part in the parade, but there were plenty of obvious crashers. “There are always rogue performers — we definitely welcome that,” said Jasmine Levett, Communications Director for Deitch Gallery.

Although this year’s route was several blocks longer than usual, the Art Parade — which ran about 40 minutes long — ended too soon for some. The crowd followed the parade to the gallery, where artists and civilians mingled for a few minutes to the sounds of gigantic balloons popping like gunshots. There, Master of Ceremonies Lizzy Yoder of Fischerspooner explained that the performance and after-party traditionally held on Grand Street outside of Deitch Gallery were cancelled this year because of complaints about noise and nudity.

Art Parade aficionado Paul Fischer, a screenwriter, lamented the change. “Now it’s just a parade and then everyone disperses, [whereas the party makes it] a community event where everyone can hang out and have fun and get to know the artists.” But participant and performance artist Bob Snead didn’t feel the loss. “Last year we did the same thing we did this year,” said Snead, “And we were completely exhausted afterwards and ready to sleep.”

Later, Levett explained that the after party was actually cancelled because of construction outside of the Gallery that was just “not conducive to having a big performance,” said Levett. “We just decided to put the focus on the parade and make it as good as it could be.” Although the party was fun, she didn’t think its cancellation was that detrimental to community spirit. “I think the parade itself brings the neighborhood together,” said Levett.