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Artist Kate Bae after she was attacked near Bryant Park in Manhattan. “I was stunned that this happened,” Bae said. “It took me some time to realize that I was covered with gravel and dirt.” (All images courtesy Kate Bae)

On the morning of Tuesday, July 7, an unknown man attacked New York-based artist and independent curator Kate Bae near Manhattan’s Bryant Park. The man struck Bae in her face and escaped from the site. No suspects have been arrested.

Bae, who is temporarily working for the US Census Bureau, was on her way to the office when she saw a man walking towards her on the corner of 42nd Street and 6th Avenue.

“He suddenly came close to me and just punched me,” Bae told Hyperallergic in a phone conversation. “I fell backward on the ground but I got up immediately to identify him, although my head was hurting. When I screamed ‘stop right there,’ he started running away.”

Two NYPD officers who arrived at the scene took a complaint from Bae but were not able to locate the attacker, who had fled the scene. (The NYPD has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.)

Bryant Park on the morning of the attack 

Bae continued walking to work as usual but when she arrived at the office, her managers urged her to visit an emergency room. She is suffering from mild injuries in her face, neck, and legs.

“I was stunned that this happened,” Bae said. “It took me some time to realize that I was covered with gravel and dirt.”

A few hours later, Bae shared her experience on social media, posting a picture of herself bruised at the site of the attack.

Kate Bae in Bryant Park, prior to the July 7 attack

Xenophobic attacks against Asians and Asian Americans, partly encouraged by President Donald Trump’s inciting rhetoric about China and the coronavirus, have been prevalent throughout the United States since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Bae, a Korean-American, says that she has been routinely harassed in the streets of New York in the past few months.

“People yell at me ‘go back to China’ or ‘hey, coronavirus.’ I face these attacks at least twice a week on my way to work,” she said.

Bae said that in a recent incident, a man tried to pull down her face mask and spit at her face.

“I’m normally very good at handling these situations,” she said. “I usually answer these comments with ‘I love you, too’ and walk away, but this one was unexpected.”

Bae said that she is frustrated and scared, but not angry. After experiencing the constant barrage of xenophobia and racist abuse, her voice broke when she retorted: “I just don’t understand why.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

7 replies on “Korean-American Artist Attacked in Manhattan”

  1. @sparetime….This is a perfect example of someone being racist while trying (clumsily) to give themselves cover by saying “Is it fair for any one person to bare blame -esp a Korean” I’m sorry but you can’t have it both ways. Either be a racist or not. This is dangerous because sentiments like this is how people justify violence and hateful attacks against asians.

  2. Sometimes I feel despair at the growing prevalence of this kind of thing. But it’s important to remember that even while people who hold these racist views are feeling empowered to express them more openly by our current administration, their numbers are actually shrinking. Though at the moment, that might be cold comfort to Kate Bae and other targets like her.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/01/the-more-donald-trump-hates-the-more-america-rejects-his-hatred.html

    https://newrepublic.com/article/158140/black-lives-matter-backlash

  3. That sucks. There are a huge number of crazy people on the streets of NYC right now, especially in that neighborhood. With the police being on standby due to political pressures from everywhere, the streets in some areas of NYC are really not so good. Kate Bae isn’t saying who or what kind of people are attacking her verbally or physically, but I bet it’s mostly the crazies and not just random racists.
    I hope she keeps her spirits up and knows that most of the rest of NYers are not like that.

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