If you’re strolling through the Lower East Side, you may just run into the Koch Brothers — or specifically, a new mural that plasters their mugs on a wall on the corner of Rivington and Suffolk streets. The original image was commissioned by Jeff Greenspan and Andrew Tider (the artists behind the Edward Snowden bust, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum) as part of The Captured Project, for which they paid incarcerated artists to draw corporate figures they think should be behind bars.
The portraits of Charles and David Koch were originally created by Joseph Acker, an inmate at Oregon’s Snake River Correctional Institution who is currently serving 10 years for a number of crimes including identity theft. Street artist Willow took Acker’s oil pastel works and magnified them against the 117 Suffolk Street building so the billionaire brothers now leer at passersby. Although Willow’s paint job remains faithful to Acker’s originals, darker hues and more prominent shadows make the pair — accused by Greenspan and Tider of “illicit payments,” “supporting terrorism, and “mass deception,” among other offenses — pretty sinister stuff to stroll past.
Greenspan and Tider legally secured the wall through the Little Italy Street Art (LISA) Project. The decision to feature the Koch Brothers out of the 29 commissioned portraits was purely logistical, as the wide wall space allows for two large portraits. Theirs are the only ones manifested as murals thus far, though Greenspan told Hyperallergic, “If someone wants to donate us a wall, we’d like to have it.”
The mural will be the last to occupy that particular space, as the building is slated for demolition, according to Greenspan, although he is unsure when. When that date arrives, we imagine it will be quite incredible to watch a wrecking ball take down the images of men whose names are essentially permanently engraved elsewhere in the city.