Asking Bedford Avenue about Contemporary Art

by Robert Hickerson on May 4, 2012

Ground zero of Williamsburg's Bedford Avenue, Bedford and N7th Street, c. 2010. (via

On a chilly march morning I took to the streets of Bedford in an attempt to get a sense of what people thought about Contemporary Art. Randomly I asked those walking up and down Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue what they thought about the current state of contemporary art, who their favorite artists were and then took their picture.

At first it was really hard to get anyone to stop and talk to me, most people were in a rush to get somewhere. But as the day went on, and the weather got warmer, so did the people.

Some of people opted out of the impromptu photo shoot, but still gave interesting answers. Kate, who is a 25-year-old graphic designer, said that she felt that a lot of art these days is simply using shock value to make a statement. She talked about Damien Hirst’s animal pieces saying that she “just didn’t know where he was coming from.” Rodger, 56 year-old freelance construction worker, said that he thinks that all art has something to say and that he loves it. 24 year-old photographer Matt said that art now “is a reflection of what’s going on, but also it mirrors past art. Art now is spread to a broad group of people, which makes it easier to promote yourself.” Another artist, Bob, explained that it is important for people to make art, but wondered if there was enough people to buy all the art made.

Name: Julie
From: Australia
Occupation: Teacher

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
Contemporary Art challenges you to think outside of what you’re used to. Growing up you are used to a lot of fine art, traditional painting and such. Contemporary Art is fun, but it can be serious too, containing social messages.

Who are your favorite artists?
I love all art and artists. There are too many to just have one favorite.

Name: Hussain
Age: 16
From: Brooklyn
Occupation: High School Student

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
Contemporary Art is new art. It is a little bit different than what it was in the 17th or 18th century. Art now has evolved, with things like shadow art.

Who are your favorite artists?
I don’t have any.

Name: Nicola
Age: 35
From: Williamsburg
Occupation: Journalist

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
I like it. The fact is that it is thought provocative and takes effort to understand it. There is a lot of bullshit but the process of getting through that to understanding it is worth it. Contemporary art is a whole phenomenon, a societal phenomenon. In the last 20 years it has impacted every day life more so than art work has ever before.

Who are your favorite artists?
Luc Tuymans.

Name: Nancy (and her dog)
From: Williamsburg
Occupation: Mixed Media Artist

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
It is great. It tries to be different, although sometimes it is derivative of other art.

Who are your favorite artists?
Jessica Stockholder.

Name: Ian
From: Williamsburg
Occupation: None

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
It’s good. It helps people tell their emotions and feelings. Especially here in Bedford.

Who are your favorite artists?
Andy Warhol and Lisa Marie Presley.

Name: Leonora Russo
From: Born in Manhattan
Occupation: The Queen of Williamsburg

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
Artists are beautiful people. They are humble and beautiful. I see them and I tell them where they can go to sell their work. They show me stuff and I like what I see. I have been here for 65 years, I am the Queen of Williamsburg.

Who are your favorite artists?
What? I am on the cover of the [New York] Post today!

Name: Eleanor
From: Greenpoint
Occupation: Physician Assistant

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
All of the different media now has changed art. Even something as simple as a camera changed. In the last 20 years photography has really influenced art. I don’t know if it adds or takes away from it, though.

Who are your favorite artists?
Goya and Gustav Klimt.

Name: Samson
From: Williamsburg
Occupation: Artist’s Model

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
The competition is tremendous. There is room for young artists if they work hard enough. They really shouldn’t get discouraged.

Who are your favorite artists?

Name: Elizabeth
From: Queens
Occupation: Student

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
What is that? I don’t know what that is.

Who are your favorite artists?
Picasso? I don’t know much about his work.

Name: Milica and Vesna
From: Serbia
Occupation: Structural Engineer and Architect

What do you think about Contemporary Art?
M: Sometimes I don’t get it.
V: It is without limits. Everybody could be an artist, everything can be art.
M: It is much easier now to express yourself.

Who are your favorite artists?
M: Banksy.
V: Yeah, Banksy.

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  • David Bromley

    Good post. I am highly prejudicial against billyburg but I liked your honest approach and diverse selection of people.  Could be a recurring feature (in different neighborhoods?). I also appreciated Ian’s two favorite artists, or at least the combination of the two.

    • Hrag Vartanian

      Yes, we’re planning on doing more across the city :)

      • JosephYoung

        was hoping so. good feature.

  • b knight

    I am very upset that you censored me.

    Ben Knight

    • Hrag Vartanian

      I assume you’re making a joke.

  • Modern Art District

    Rituals in the Arts have been part of human history since the beginning. Art is created to be experienced by others and engages us in community even when our reactions to Art are deeply personalized. You are welcome to like “Modern Art District” on Facebook.

    If you have more questions please contact.

    Modern Art District
    National Design Consultant
    Jacqueline Correa
    Phone: (512) 200-4ART

  • norabarn

    This is pretty pathetic.

    • Hrag Vartanian

      Please elaborate or else you’re not really contributing to the discussion.

  • Jen Galatioto

    this rules…

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