Group Occupies Artists Space in SoHo [Updated 10/24]

After more than 24 hours, Artists Space's board asked the occupiers to leave, and they complied, according to executive director and curator Stefan Kalmár. "There was no force," he said.

One half of the leaflet distributed by occupiers. (Courtesy Occupy 38)

October 24, 9:00 AM: The group that occupied Artists Space on Saturday after noon, remaining until they were asked to leave yesterday evening, have issued a statement on their Tumblr blog, which provides some background on their action. It begins as follows:

“The occupation at 38 Greene Street ended at 8PM on Sunday October 23rd, 28 hours after it began.

“The administrators of the Artists Space, under the influence of their board of directors, brought in a paid private security force of five to affirm the sanctity of their non-profit private property.

“Earlier, the Executive Director and his minions (apparently ignorant of their own exploitation and unwilling to join in the occupation) had been rudely shoved aside by a fraction of the movement which attempts, in sometimes distorted ways, to develop a critique of the existent. Clinging to the veneer of legitimacy still provided, in some minds, by the non-profit industrial complex, he took advantage of the occupiers’ patience and tolerance to hinder, as best he could, any real flourishing of rebellion in the space he had formerly controlled.

“Threatening and reminding us of the illegal nature of the occupation and his power to bring down the NYPD on our heads, he belligerently intimidated while farcically insisting on his sympathy with the movement. If he did not immediately use police violence to evict the occupation, this was of course only because of his cowardly attachment to his so-called “radical” credentials, status and image.”

The full statement is available here. The occupiers have declined to speak with the media, and have not responded to requests for an interview.

The group concludes the post with the following message: “This was just a beginning. How can the rest of New York City remain unoccupied? It can’t. We will occupy everything.”

October 23, 9:30 PM: The occupation seems to be over. Reached by phone, Artists Space executive director and curator Stefan Kalmár confirmed to us moments ago that the organization’s board held a conference call and agreed to ask the protestors to leave. Mr. Kalmár said that he made the announcement to the group this evening, and they proceeded to do so. Two security guards were present, he said, though “there was no force. Everybody left bit by bit.”

Artists Space has posted a message on its website explaining its position, which reads, in part:

“After participation of all staff members in now 24 hours of discussion with the occupiers and enduring physical threats and theft of property, and more so as a result of this being an agendaless occupation, we jointly concluded as per this evening to ask the occupiers to leave the Artists Space property, so that at least we can get on with our work.”

On a Tumblr blog that appears to belong to the occupiers, the following message was posted this evening:

“Several security individuals from the building have entered the space and are now preparing to evict us. We now see the face of the art ideology as its true form: ex-cops in suits. We are here and are calling for all to come and help prevent the eviction of Manhattan’s first indoor occupied building!”

We have reached out to the group, through their blog, for comment.

Mr. Kalmár said that his board decided to make the move because people who had occupied the space had ventured onto the roof of the building, setting off alarms, and had threatened staff members, issues that he had raised when we spoke to him earlier in the day. He had also learned that occupiers had broken into a storage space and removed a laptop computer.

“I would like to have discussions be continued, in a more structured manner,” he said. “There was a lack of discourse and conversation here.”

A few sleeping bags remain in the space, he said, belonging to people who are believed to have gone down to Zuccotti Park. They will be available tomorrow at 10 a.m., when staff members begin installing the gallery’s next show.

Group Occupies Artists Space in SoHo [Updated 10/24]