Single Tag On Mattress Covered In Scribble Could Land Artist Year In Jail

Last month, ANIMAL reported on Istvan Kantor, a Neoist artist who tagged a mattress that was part of an installation by fellow artist Nelson Saiers at The Hole Shop. Kantor, signed the name “Monty Cantsin” on Saiers’ work, a moniker he has been using to disrupt the art world since the 1970s. The police were called and he was arrested. After spending the night, he was released the next day. He’s now facing several misdemeanor charges: making graffiti, possession of graffiti instrument, and criminal mischief. If convicted on all three counts, he could be sentenced to a year in jail, although that’s pretty rare, even if he is using a public defender.

Soon after he was released out of NYPD custody, Kantor told ANIMAL that he thought the mattress was there to be tagged. “It looked like an interactive piece that was asking for signatures, so I signed it,” he explained. That’s actually a good excuse and could provide the foundation for a solid defense.

Prosecutors also may find it hard to get a conviction on the making graffiti charge. According to the statute, “the term ‘graffiti’ shall mean the etching, painting, covering, drawing upon or otherwise placing of a mark upon public or private property with intent to damage such property.” Despite Kantor propensity to tag things, he’s foreign to the concept of graffiti or vandalism. “I have been arrested many times for making statements in the form of museum interventions in many countries around the world,” conveyed the artist over email. “But I didn’t do those to vandalize art works, but to express my opinion.”

On August 3rd, Kantor has to go back to court and he’s a bit worried. “This is no joke anymore,” he wrote. “It is outrageous that I might end up in the cooler for a year if they convict me. Even just spending a night in jail was way too much for signing Monty Cantsin on a used mattress full of scribbles and signatures.”

When reached by email, Saiers said he doesn’t know much about the case. “ I haven’t heard anything. I’ve just been focused on making new work. I’ll let you know if I do.”

Kantor, a consummate gadfly, thinks the stuffy art scene in the city is to blame for creating such a dickish atmosphere. “In the New York art world, everyone just want to make lots of money and therefor corporate power is not only in the system, but also nests in the mind and soul of the artists. Institutional authority invaded the entire biological organism, the brainwash process has been completed.”

(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)