Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

A suspect makes off with Kenny Scharf’s “NEVERENDINGOGO” banner on August 2016. (GIF by the author via YouTube)

A 60-foot-long mural by street artist Kenny Scharf has been stolen from the East River Esplanade in Harlem for the second time — but at least this time the heist was captured on camera. The black, white, yellow, and purple vinyl banner artwork, “NEVERENDINGOGO” (2016), was first installed along the East River near 116th Street and FDR Drive on June 22 only to be stolen a few days later. A second copy was printed at a cost of $2,000 and installed in early July by Friends of the East River Esplanade, who had commissioned Scharf to create the work. Intended to remain on view through the end of September, the second “NEVERENDINGOGO” was taken on August 20, as newly released security footage shows.

The short video, released by the NYPD and posted online by Gothamist, shows a bearded young fan of “NEVERENDINGOGO” committing a never-ending no-no. The suspect, wearing black shorts and a tie-dye T-shirt — initially with his head concealed under the vast vinyl banner — is seen gathering up the artwork and beginning to walk away from the site. According to the NYPD, he then “placed it in a small sport utility vehicle and fled northbound on the FDR Drive.” (Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to contact the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or, for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA.)

Despite the thief’s casual demeanor in the short security footage clip, the heist must have demanded some serious effort. The second banner had been fastened with “dozens of galvanized steel ties,” Friends of the East River Esplanade member Jennifer Ratner told DNAinfo in July, as well as grommets every 18 inches along its 60-foot span and additional, unspecified security measures. The organization does not plan to create a third version of the mural. “We tried really hard, but I can’t say we will do it again,” Ratner told the Harlem Patch.

“The whole thing is mystifying to me because I don’t understand what he could be doing with the vinyl piece,” Scharf told Hyperallergic over email.

Usually I do public art on a wall or surface that can’t be taken and that is actual painting, but this was only a printout not original art so there’s not much of a value for it monetarily. Whenever doing art in a public space there’s always the risk of theft or vandalism. In this case it was kind of flattering in a funny way, but also takes the pleasure away from all the motorists driving up the FDR.

Though Scharf’s second East River Esplanade banner is gone, a work he created alongside it — “TotemOh,” a stack of smiling characters painted onto a stone column — remains.

Totemo @esplanadefriend 116&FDR

A photo posted by Kennyscharf (@kennyscharf) on

The Latest

Opportunities in December 2021

From commissions to residencies and fellowships for artists, curators, and teachers, a list of opportunities that artists, writers, and art workers can apply for each month.

Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

16 replies on “Security Footage Shows 60-Foot Kenny Scharf Mural Being Stolen, Again”

  1. Let’s do the math:

    1. The location of the stolen mural is 116th St at FDR Drive.

    2. That’s where East River Plaza is.

    3. East River Plaza is owned by Forest City Ratner Companies.

    4. Forest City Ratner Companies is owned by Bruce Ratner.

    5. Bruce Ratner is a real estate mogul (the subject of Observer’s “How to Steal a City” – 10/2/12)

    6. Jennifer Ratner of “Friends of the River Esplanade” is likely related to Bruce Ratner through his father.

    QED: The man is taking art used as a decoy for Jewish developers to gentrify his neighborhood.

    (Cross references: Bronx “art fair”; Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety”; Elizabeth Sackler’s BLM party at the Brooklyn Museum)

    1. Semites? Where are these Semites to which people refer? Semitic refers to languages not to a race. There are over 70 Semitic languages, so what are you talking about? Get you facts straight before you hurl juvenile accusations, and get your potty mouth washed out.

      1. Yes, I would agree about “‘potty language'”, of which, in my opinion, there is far too much in these discussions. I understand people feeling the need for ‘intensifiers’, but their choices too often demonstrate a lack of independent thinking, dipping into the ‘potty’ rather than into a finely crafted ratatouille, for instance.

        According to my online Mirriam-Webster dictionary, ‘Semitic’ also refers to “a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language”. In this case, Jonhartz’s use of the word is clear, I think. I only wish he’d expressed himself in different terms.

        1. Yes, But it doesn’t have anything to do with people calling themselves “jews.” Arabs and Ethiopians speak Semitic languages. So, I stand by my original statement, Semite is not a race. An Egyptian, speaking Arabic, a Semitic language, is an Egyptian, not a Semite, the same would hold true for an Ethiopian who would not be called a Semite. They would be called Ethiopians.

          The anti-semitic epithet that is claimed by the Zionists is a mis-application of the term. It has come to mean something other than what it is. If I say someone is anti-semitic, are they against all people who speak a Semitic language? I think not. It is a Zionist subterfuge to make it appear that so called “jews” are a separate and distinct race, which they are not.

          1. Word play. “Zionist” gives your game away. Anyway, your little hobby horse has nothing to do with the issue of theft and vandalism of public art.

          2. Neither did John Hart’s comment when he answered Judy Chicano by saying. “Fuck you, anti-semitic bitch.” I just wanted to clarify his outrageous statement. And I am not engaging in a game and truth is not so easily changed by calling it one.

            As far as the theft of public art, I’ll call my contacts at the police department to make sure they pull out all the stops in tracking down this heinous thief.

          3. While your ‘technical’ argument has a lot going for it, it doesn’t, and won’t change common usage. Also, I suspect that your notion of “Zionist subterfuge” may need to be varified historically.

            I think that princeminski’s comment is precisely what matters most, though I understand that the waters were muddied to begin with by Judy Chicano’s original post.

          4. I agree with you that what I say will not change common usage. Powerful political groups with a lot of money find it all too easy to subvert truth.

    2. I get your point. I think. However:

      1. Where is the math?

      2.”Jennifer Ratner . . . is LIKELY related to Bruce Ratner . . .” Well, is she or isn’t she?

      3. “QED: The man is taking art used as a decoy . . . ” What do you mean by the word “decoy”? And do you really believe that that in any way this justifies his actions?

      4. “for Jewish developers to gentrify his neighborhood.” What does his ethnicity have to do with your “math”? For me this reference is a big turn-off relative to the point I thought you were making. But I guess, now, that I am wrong. Now it reads like nothing more than a racial harangue.

      1. I’m going on ‘mathematical’ probabilities. Bruce Ratner’s father had seven siblings. Jennifer Ratner installed grand-scale public art where one of Bruce Ratner’s developments is. The odds these Ratners are related vastly outweigh the odds they aren’t. Said another way, isn’t the world a strange place?

        The ethnicity is related in two ways. The developers who do the public art-then-gentrify move are Jewish. I mentioned three recent precedents Hyperallergic has reported on. (The 5Pointz attempt was too much of a failure to include in the list.) Second, the ethnic underbelly to these stories is the demographics of people displaced by these developers, working class Hispanics and African-Americans. According to the ADL, anti-Semitism runs about 20% for African-Americans and 30% for foreign-born Hispanics. You will notice the man who stole the art appears to be Hispanic. This should not be surprising, either.

        Hyperallergic has no obligation to report on the ethnic conflicts of gentrification, but given their interest in privilege, displacement, and identity politics, it seems that they (at least for themselves) would want to understand these things.

        1. This explanation makes no sense to me. I suspect you are right about the family relationships, but I don’t actually know. And since you insist on it, what ARE the “‘mathematical’ probabilities’? Can you give me actual numbers. (i.e., do the math for me)?

          All in all, when it looks like a duck and walks like a duck — an ethnic slur is an ethnic slur, and unnecessary, I think, in making your point.

          How would you identify an Italian developer, or a Scotsman, or anyone else, for that matter?

          1. I think my point was made, despite the offense.

            “Jews” is not an ethnic slur, by the way. It is an ethnicity. “Spic” is an ethnic slur. “Hispanic” is an ethnicity. Is this going anywhere other than attempts to malign me for pointing to ethnic conflicts of interest?

            I would identify an Italian developer by noting that one is both Italian and a developer. There’d be nothing worthwhile in doing that unless there was a history of Italian developers actively damaging the quality of life for particular urban ethnic groups.

            I’m not interested in defending my character. What counts as “anti-Semitic” beliefs and expressions is an interesting and complex discussion (that involve lots of other subjects, most of which people don’t know exist), but not one I’ll be getting into here. This is my last post here.

          2. According to the Oxford linguists, words ‘mean’ according to how they are used. Thus, “Juden” scrawled on the windows of Jewish shopkeepers in Germany was certainly an ethnic slur. And if “Irish Need Not Apply” wasn’t a slur in Boston, I don’t know what it was.

            Words can be used to mean about anything we wish to argue. We all need to be careful.

            One final point. Although you have signed off on this discussion, I wish you could point out to me even one ethnic group NOT associated with the issues that concern you — but please don’t tell me Eskimo, or some other unlikely group, you know what I mean. (But of course, I really don’t know, perhaps there are Eskimo developers in NYC, and perhaps they are innocent of your concerns.)

            I am sorry. I have had no intention to malign you. I just like arguments to be clear and uncluttered with unnecessary distractions. If theft and vandalism was your point, that’s one thing. But a discussion of “ethnic conflicts” is quite another matter, one that would, I believe, take a lot more than is available in a reply to the article at hand.

            It would seem, however, that a lot of developers are guilty of such things, and that ought to be a worthwhile article and follow-up discussion all its own.

          3. The reason for calling out Jewish developers is because this is exactly where the rub is in much of what gets reported on as harmful gentrification. It is all well and good to shout “white supremacy” into the air at a Brooklyn Museum developers summit, or blame white artist kids moving into low-income neighborhoods as if they were also billionaire building owners. But that completely misdirects the exact place where social pressure must be put to keep these problems from continually happening and getting worse every day. Jewish developers – especially those who can access arts resources, such as David Walentas at Two Trees and Co-Chair of the Creative Time Board, did with Kara Walker – call the shots in what happens across the city and it has tangible impact on thousands of people’s lives.

            Of course, I expected to be attacked for flipping on the lights here. I’d be more surprised if no one acted like a Pavlov’s dog barking “racism” when I did. But just as the gentrification problem in New York has a history, so too does the concept of “anti-Semitism”, as it has been transformed since the Frankfurt School and advent of Freudian psychoanalysis to be regarded as a form of mental sickness, pathologized, when it could otherwise be understood as an explicable response to unjust behaviors one group enacts on another. That’s why you have mta-mutt discussing my mental health rather than offering commentary that might dissuade a reader from believing anything I have written is anything but true.

            Take care.

  2. The thief needs to take a lesson on how to roll up a long piece of canvas.
    Maybe they offer classes like that in jail….

Comments are closed.