Greetings from New York City!
Since covering the campaigns in Ohio and working Video the Vote on Election Day, I have been in NYC following one of the characters of PAY 2 PLAY, the street artist Alec Monopoly, as he has been preparing for his major solo debut art show in Chelsea.
While such an impressive exhibit by a young artist would traditionally warrant an appearance by the creator himself, circumstances inhibit in-person accolades: The NYPD are looking for him.
In the past weeks leading up to this exhibition, uniformed and plain-clothed police officers have been stopping by the studio and gallery, asking neighbors about Alec, and were observed staking out his intersection on more than one occasion. Alec has credible reason to believe his cell was tapped, and has relied on pre-paid booster phones.
That he is under surveillance may be a surprise to those unfamiliar with how the NYPD has treated artists since Giuliani bolstered “quality of life” crime enforcement in the ’90s, largely kept in place by Mayor Bloomberg. Painters selling their work on the street as well as graffiti artists have been thrown in jail, with their artwork confiscated and destroyed.
Alec’s street art has gotten him notice all over the world, and so it is not surprising that the New York City graffiti task force notices. In the last few weeks, next to the small crevices of the city’s surfaces where tags thrive unabated, big bright posters of Jack Nicholson or DJ Monopoly Man sprung up. Alec’s prominent signature also helps make his name subconsciously ubiquitous. So if the cops really are setting out every day to crack down on those that decorate the city (as opposed to those that vandalize private property) then Alec’s advertised art show makes for easy police work.
While getting arrested has helped many an artist become a folk hero, Alec demurs and prefers to let his work represent him. Completing your first major exhibit is a struggle in itself – that struggle is only compounded when you can’t get in to your own studio because the cops are parked outside waiting for you in one of those unmarked cars that look like taxi cabs, but have sirens.
In the tight hours finishing the pieces for his show, I was able to film this exclusive interview with Alec. In this short doc, he discusses refining his medium from the streets to indoors, his philosophy on street art, and life on the lam.
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