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Children jumping rope in the newly doomed Prospect Plaza neighborhood. (Photo via hud.gov)

In 1972, Charles Jencks pointed to the destruction of the Priutt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis as the moment when Modernism died. Over the years, cities across the country followed suit and destroyed their own failed utopian experiments in public housing (Philadelphia tore down 21, Chicago 79, and Baltimore 21). In New York, housing projects – though reviled – have never been faced with physical destruction, well until now.

The New York Times reports:

New York City has long been the great exception, and red-brick towers still dominate big swathes of the city from the Lower East Side to East Harlem, from Mott Haven to Bushwick. But now, for the first time in its 75-year history, the New York City Housing Authority wants to knock down an entire high-rise complex, Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn. The move that has surprised and angered a number of former tenants and advocates for low-income housing.

The odd thing is that the city didn’t originally plan to level the towers in Brownsville that make up the complex. Prospect Plaza Houses, as they are called, were built in 1974:

… a four-building development with 368 apartments housing some 1,171 residents, was chosen for the massive revitalization because it had been suffering from severe physical and social distress.

Years ago, they had plans to renovate the complex. Guess that didn’t work out.

The British Museum has refused to hand over a 23cm (9″) Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, which is described as the first declaration of human rights.

Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper is reporting that Iran is pissed at the British Museum for repeated delays in loaning an ancient Persian treasure, the Cyrus Cylinder, to Tehran. As a result, Iran cut ties with the British Museum on Sunday:

“Since the Cyrus Cylinder has not been transferred to Iran, we will lodge a complaint against the British Museum to UNESCO and cut ties,” Baghai was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Why is the cylinder so important?

Many historians regard the cylinder, discovered in 1879, as the world’s first declaration of human rights. It was written at the order of Persian ruler Cyrus the Great after his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and is currently with the British Museum.

And the Brits can’t say they didn’t know this would happen, since the Iranians have been threatening to do this for a while.

A Renoir sketch, which was recently donated to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. (click to enlarge)

In great museum news, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, has received a donation of 29 Impressionist artworks from local collectors, Henry and Marion Bloch:

Marc Wilson, the Nelson’s director and CEO, said it is “the biggest gift the museum has ever received,” although the museum declined to give out the value of the works.

I’m glad Wilson didn’t try to frame the whole donation in terms of dollars and cents. We should stop valuing all art based on its price. I mean, my appreciate of Giacometti hasn’t skyrocketed just because his prices have.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled (Football Helmet)” (nd) is the art work that Yoshii Gallery in New York is reputedly to have illegally sold.

As we prepare for Hyperallergic’s contribution to #class at the Winkleman Gallery this month — our project is titled “$ECRET$ OF THE NEW YORK ART WORLD” — we wanted to share this juicy tidbit about … yes you guest it … someone who is owed money in the art world. An art collector is claiming that Yoshii Gallery in Manhattan borrowed his Basquiat and then sold it without title and without the rightful owners permission. Our answer … simply WOW!

Last night, the New England Journal of Aesthetic Research announced the winners of the 2009 New England Art Awards at an award ceremony at the Burren in Somerville, Massachusetts. There is a complete list on the blog.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland has raised $18 million toward the estimated construction cost of $25 million for a new building, which is designed by London-based architect Farshid Moussavi.

According to the Londonist, the Transport for London has banned posters of the latest Massive Attack album cover because it resembles graffiti, which is a no no for the transit authority:

‘They won’t allow anything on the tube that looks like ‘street art’. They want us to remove all drips and fuzz from it so it doesn’t look like it’s been spray-painted, which is fucking ridiculous. It’s the most absurd censorship I’ve ever seen,’ del Naja said in response to the decision.

This isn’t the first ban by Transport for London. Last year, they banned a street art-inspired poster by Ministry of Sound in case it caused ‘graffiti artists to think that such behaviour would be tolerated.’

One couple in Los Angeles commissioned a mural by street artist Phil Lumbang and now, because of a neighbor’s complaint they are being told by LA’s Building and Safety Department that it is in violation of the city’s ordinances on outdoor advertising and it will have to be removed. Even though the mural was sanctioned and on private property property, the city is getting involved. Jordan Seiler at Public Ad Campaign has complained about the move, but I have to admit to being surprised by the outrage.

Phil Lumbang’s mural is the subject of debate in LA, where a neighbor complained that the sanctioned mural on private property makes the street “seem ghetto.” (click to enlarge)

While I do think the whole thing is absurd, I’m not surprised since most suburbs and communities tend to have ordinances and laws to assure aesthetic homogeneity. From the very first suburbs, aesthetic regulations have always been the name of the game in the suburban American dream, which has never been about thinking outside the box. This should remind us why some of us chose to live in urban areas and not the ‘burbs. There’s a reason street art emerged in the urban cores – which tend to celebrate diversity of all types – and not the suburban peripheries. Granted the mural is in Silver Lake, not Orange County, but I think suburban accurately describes most of LA.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

6 replies on “Brooklyn Housing Project Gets the Ax, Iran Cuts Ties with British Museum, Nelson-Atkins Gets Impressionist Stash”

  1. The problem is that “affordable” housing advocates don’t care about individuals, only some vague idea of “social justice,” and therefore oppose taking this housing out of theoretical circulation. I say theoretical because most of these people never move.

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