<br/>Photo: Mayotic / Director Noterdaeme and Florence Coyote on Fifth Avenue 
Director Noterdaeme and Florence Coyote on Fifth Avenue
Photo: Mayotic

Robin Schatell
Event Director
Museum Mile Festival
c/o Urban Arts Productions
500 Grand St, A 5C
New York, NY 10002

June 4, 2008

Dear Ms. Schatell,

On June 3rd, I joined countless museum lovers on Fifth Avenue for this year's Museum Mile Festival. As in previous years, the festival was a joyful event: people from all over the city leisurely strolled from one museum to the next, enjoying the car-free environment, free museum access, and live performances.

To celebrate this year's 30th anniversary of the Festival, I had decided to launch a satirical campaign on behalf of my Homeless Museum of Art, the Museum Awareness Campaign. The campaign is a cheeky comment on the overexposure of New York City's established art museums, facetiously claiming that they are in a state of near oblivion and encouraging the public to frequent them. This was not meant as an attack on the Festival; it was an artist's attempt to draw attention to the bigger picture: that we live in a time where museums are dominating the art world instead of serving it.

Walking up and down Fifth Avenue, I pushed a vintage pram in which sat a taxidermied coyote equipped with a small sound system that played a recorded excerpt from a 1971 essay by sociologist Ernest Van Den Haag, entitled "Art and the Mass Audience." In addition, I offered flyers about my campaign to those who professed interest - a mere 150 flyers throughout the three-hour event. There was no exchange of money or any commercial interest involved in my action.

I was not surprised by the fact that you were somewhat displeased with my clandestine participation. I know that you are working within the tightly knit bureaucratic apparatus of cultural institutions and city regulations and that you, as the event's producer, need to answer to higher powers.

However, I am taking offense at the way you handled our interaction, which is the reason I am writing to you today. When you accosted me, I was about to wrap things up as the Festival came to a close. At first, you tried to intimidate me by threatening to have me escorted off Fifth Avenue by the police department. This was followed by attempts to humiliate me with deriding comments about my art project. Despite your aggressive tone, I stayed courteous, politely inviting you to look into the details of my campaign (which you declined).

Looking back, I can clearly see that you were on automatic: you perceived me as an unwelcome guest and tried to get rid of me (from a public space, mind you). Considering that the Festival featured street artists such as clowns, balloon artists and magicians, I find it hard to believe that my presence was indeed such a grave disturbance. It is a shame that a producer who is in charge of an important event that is dedicated to bringing the public closer to art opts to use tactics of intimidation when faced with an unexpected yet altogether benign art action. The irony within your often-repeated comment that "the Museum Mile Festival is not for artists" was not lost on the group of downtown artists that happened to stand close-by and listened to your rant in disbelief.

My Homeless Museum of Art is an art project that critically exposes the mechanisms that have turned cultural institutions into capitalist ventures that manipulate the public with corporate marketing strategies and marginalize artists who speak out against the cultural establishment. In this business-driven museum world, any kind of critique is usurped by pressure, indifference or bullying - the very tactics you deployed in your attempts to shoo me away.

A festival that purports to celebrate art museums ought to welcome artists, not shun them. If the Museum Mile Festival truly wants to have a stake in the cultural landscape of this vibrant city, I strongly urge it to loosen up a bit and embrace autonomous contributions by independent artists.


Filip Noterdaeme
Director, HOMU