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Thieves Destroy Ryan McGinness' Sign Project

  • Thieves Destroy Ryan McGinness' Sign Project
August 14, 2014

The systematic destruction of street art has been part of this subculture since the beginnings. Usually, the main characters in this kind of story were law enforcement structures. However, since the beginning of the years when street art became widely recognized as a significant movement, and in some aspects a part of pop art, general public came to a realization that there is market value for urban artwork. This prompted the proliferation of artwork removal by the unknown individuals who were looking to make “easy money”. Some of the first artists whose street art had been methodically stolen were Banksy and Space Invader. This summer, New York witnessed an art theft of a wide scale…

Thieves Destroy Ryan McGinness' Sign Project
Ryan McGinness, artwork

Cryptic Signs of Ryan McGinness

Ryan McGinness is a renown urban artist who has been a part of many group exhibitions and collaborations, including some of the most famous names in street art today. Most recently, he took part in The Provocateurs group show. His project Signs is a true paradigm of street art. Through the artist’s power to express himself in minimalist imagery, the seemingly simple shapes in red, white and black emanate a cryptic and complex message of often deeply existential nature. The explanations of signs are a work of art in their own right. Messages such as The hand of the God rewards the fish who fishes fish for himself or simply French kiss convey another dimension of meaning hidden under yet another layer of cryptic expression. Now imagine that this kind of symbolism sneaks up on you while you’re standing on the sidewalk, waiting for the traffic light to turn green… This is the ingenious aspect of an urban intervention. When McGinness first came up with the idea, he decided to turn to the people who made signs for the city. This prompted a fruitful collaboration with the Department of Transportation and soon enough, McGinness’ signs were a part of Summer Streets, an annual project of New York City Department of Transportation. 50 signs were put up all over the city. However, 40 of the signs have gone missing…

Thieves Destroy Ryan McGinness' Sign Project
Ryan McGinness, Signs

The Theft of Street Art

The most curious aspect of the disappearance of artwork is that the pieces went missing soon after they had been put up. This is what is most confusing for the artist. To paraphrase his words, it would appear that the signs were systematically removed. It shouldn’t go unmentioned that the pieces were made of the same material which is used to make street signs, so there was, as the artist said, “real expense involved in the production of these signs.” Of course, when we add the cost of labor that was involved for the city to install the signs, the damage is even greater. However, the greatest damage concerns the removal of art itself, before there was a chance for it to be appreciated. Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation has remade and put up some of the signs…

Thieves Destroy Ryan McGinness' Sign Project
Ryan McGinness, artwork

Signs artwork with notes available at www.ryanmcginness.com

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