Pietà or Porn?
Uptown Mom Attacks Nudes
Hell hath no fury like a New York City mom who believes her child is being exposed to inappropriate art, as the folks at the Goethe Institut discovered on Oct. 21. The German cultural organization received a call shortly before that date from a woman saying that she objected to a nude photograph by the German artist Michael Najjar which was being used to advertise the Institut’s current exhibition, Information and Apocalypse , in a showcase in front of the 1014 Fifth Avenue building.
“She said she was upset with the image, and she was upset how her 13-year-old boy gets a special feeling when he sees this kind of image,” Katrin Elia, the Goethe Institut’s program officer for the visual arts, told the Crime Blotter. While Ms. Elia admitted that the female nude had “nice breasts,” she described the image as reminiscent of the Pietà and added that it wasn’t intended by the artist to be erotic.
While this space roundly condemns censorship, it’s possible to understand without squinting too hard how the unknown woman might object, especially given the impressionability of the average teenage male. The photo in question features a naked, alabaster-skinned beauty with extremely perky breasts straddling a bloodied U.S. Army soldier inside a tent on a cot; there is also a wooden crucifix tacked to the wall, handcuffs dangling suggestively from the bed and two piles of discarded Army fatigues, his and hers. On closer inspection, a Fox News press credential can be seen protruding from her pile, suggesting that the woman may be deeply embedded-perhaps even pursuing a scoop.
However, the topicality of the art, which can be viewed at michaelnajjar.com, didn’t seem to appease this mom. She threatened the Institut that she would spray-paint the image if it wasn’t removed. “We didn’t do anything, and the next day she did what she actually promised,” Ms. Elia went on. The vandal neatly spray-painted a brown blotch over only the nudes, leaving the rest of the display case untouched.
In response, the Institut placed a “Vandalized” sign over the defaced image and installed a pristine version of the same picture on the other side of the display case. One week later, the woman struck again, Ms. Elia said, this time without a warning phone call.
So the Goethe Institut did what museums do best: They turned the incident into an opportunity for dialogue, placing a guest book by the front desk and asking visitors for their comments. They also called the police, who responded to the scene and took in the show while they were there.
“After the second vandalism event, we had two police officers in uniform in the house,” Ms. Elia reported. “They were looking at the show closely.” However, she hasn’t heard from them since.
The exhibition, meanwhile, continues through Nov. 13.
Lightning Strikes Twice
Your beleaguered Crime Blotter reporter recently wrote about encountering a burglar in his apartment on Oct. 7. However, this incident is not to be confused with another incident a few weeks earlier in which Mrs. Crime Blotter’s almost brand-new bike was stolen from the basement of our building, along with the bicycles of several other tenants. And though our apartment burglar has yet to be apprehended, the bike burglar was caught by the 19th Precinct’s anti-crime unit on Oct. 16.
“The guy that hit your place went to hit a doorman building at 89th Street and Lexington Avenue” on Oct. 11, explained Deputy Inspector James Rogers, the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer. “He was caught on camera, and we got his description out.”
Sure enough, one week later the police received a 911 call about a perp fitting the same description. He was wearing a Nike cap with the swoosh emblem and brand-new white sneakers (“The sneakers is what makes this guy stand out,” Inspector Rogers noted), and was in the process of trying to break into the basement of 150 East 85th Street.
“We get there, and he’s in the back trying to take a bike,” Officer Rogers said.
“We lock him up and close four 61′s,” another police official added, using police parlance for the NYPD crime-reporting forms. “This guy was a one-man crime wave. We run his rap sheet-not only is this a lifetime burglar, but he tried to kill two cops in the Bronx.”
In the 1984 incident to which the official alluded, the suspect allegedly pulled a gun on two police officers during a car stop. “The cops wrestle him to the ground and arrest him for attempted murder,” the official said. “We had to bring him down to Central Booking in shackles.”
The suspect, a 46-year-old Harlem resident on parole for burglary, apparently confessed to four thefts during his current crime spree. When he was arrested, he was carrying what the cops described as “good-looking bolt-cutters,” which solves the mystery of how Mrs. Crime Blotter’s bike-chained to a pipe in the basement-was removed.
As for getting her bike back, the cops told us not to hold our breath. “He sells them uptown,” one officer said, adding: “They’re gone with the wind.”
It’s so simple, it makes you wonder why crooks don’t employ the ruse more often: On Oct. 12, two men and a woman visited a grocery store at 1268 Third Avenue around noon and-rather than going through the hassle of sticking up the place-one of the perps simply took a magazine and ran.
The merchant, like a hound after a fox, shot off in hot pursuit, leaving the store unprotected. The remaining male and female took advantage of his absence by raiding a box behind the counter and making off with $1,265 in cash.
Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.