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A view of the protesters at Gagosian gallery (image from newyorker.com)

At Gagosian gallery on December 23rd18th, black-shirted figures stood in front of Anselm Kiefer’s enigmatic, monumental sculptures. Wearing shirts inscribed with “Next year in Jerusalem,” the protesters were attempting to continue Keifer’s political dialogue. Gallery employees didn’t agree and tried to force them out. Unfortunately, an innocent bystander got caught in the middle and was injured in the process, The New Yorker reports.

The black-shirted protesters were part of a group called U.S. Boat to Gaza, which “plans to sponsor a ship in the next flotilla to sail against the Israeli blockade.” Their action was meant to extend “the discussion that Kiefer had begun” in his exhibition, also named Next Year in Jerusalem: “Morality. Guilt. Jewish tragedy, past and present.” Their message didn’t really get across to perturbed gallery assistants, who asserted that the gallery was “private property” and that “We’re here to sell art.” Oof. The Gaza crew didn’t budge. Shortly after the gallery staff left the scene, police arrived.

A German woman in her late fifties, Ingrid Homberg, was also in the gallery at the time of the conflict. Police apparently mistook her for one of the protesters and politely asked attempted to force her to leave the gallery. Then comes the injury. Pierpoint’s article has a painful description:

His partner grabbed her by the arm and began to pull her out. The force of the motion caused her to lose her balance; she fell. And the Gagosian’s chamber of artful horrors came to appalling life, as crowds of gallery goers, on a busy Saturday afternoon, watched a police officer drag a frail and terrified woman, howling with pain, across the floor of two long rooms to the doorway.

Many people might have assumed that her cries were part of a staged scene, since the protesters were shepherded out behind her, loudly bemoaning their deprivation of freedom of speech. But on the street, Homberg pulled off her coat and rolled up her sleeve to reveal an arm thickly blotched black and blue. The officer, she explained, had not merely grabbed her arm—thin enough, and easy to grab—but had strongly pressed his fingers into the upper inner muscle as he dragged her. The result, she said, was agony.

Sounds awful, and more like police misjudgment than any wrongdoing on the side of the protesters. No Gagosian representative stepped up to take responsibility, nor did they respond to Homberg’s requests to speak with the gallery. The New York Police department insists that they were still in the right, and that Homberg was merely “escorted” from the gallery. According to a comment left on  the New Yorker’s article, Homberg is now suing both the gallery and the police.

This protest doesn’t sound like the most intelligent thing ever, but that’s no excuse for the horrific mistake of grabbing a gallery-goer and dragging them across the floor when they clearly had little to do with the original problem. The Gagosian gallery just bit off a lot more than it was expecting when it called the police. Should the protesters be allowed in private gallery space? I don’t think they necessarily have to be. The sidewalk is fine. But this is a whole different story.

Our best goes out to Ingrid Homberg and her efforts to resolve this stupidity.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

3 replies on “Kiefer Protest Met With Conflict, But Not For Protesters”

  1. Typical NYPD behaviour, rough someone up first then ask questions later. This type of thing happens all the time, except the fact that it was a tourist in an upmarket gallery means that it got some publicity for once.

  2. I question calling this political action a protest. It is an opportunistic self-promotion by the “protesters'” taking advantage of the word “Jerusalem” in the Kiefer exhibit title. Kiefer’s show doesn’t seem to have anything to do with agreeing or disagreeing with group’s intended flotilla to aid the Palestinians.

  3. Personally, I hope this woman files suit against the Gagosian Gallery. I know the high heeled gallerina described in the New Yorker article. She has the brains of a cabbie on crack. The few skills she is actually good at have nothing to do with selling art if you catch my drift.

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