Ruh-Roh: Ground Floor Tenant Will Have Final Say About 190 Bowery’s Graffiti

April 24, 2015 | Bucky Turco

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported (and ANIMAL and others repeated), that the new tenants of 190 Bowery are cool with the graffiti on the exterior of the building and want it to stay. But unfortunately, that may not matter — Matthew Moneypenny, the CEO of the unnamed creative conglomeration that plans on occupying floors two through six in early 2016, told ANIMAL that the decision to buff ultimately isn’t his.

“To be clear, we have expressed our very adamant preference that the graffiti remain – and the management company seems well aligned with our view – but the ground floor retail or restaurant tenant will apparently have the final say,” explained Moneypenny by email.

The exterior walls of the former Germania Bank have been tagged and plastered by artists for decades, since photographer Jay Maisel bought the place in 1966. He lived at 190 Bowery with his family and rented out rooms of the building to artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Adolph Gottleib; rarely did the public get to peek inside. Maisel reluctantly sold the mansion last year for $55 million and moved out months later. Then workers started removing windows panels adorned with wheatpasted posters and the fate of the building’s historic art has been uncertain ever since.

To Moneypenny, graffiti on 190 is nostalgic. “I love graffiti and virtually all forms of public art – it reminds me of the NYC I fell in love with many, many years ago – and specifically the graffiti at 190 Bowery,” he wrote. “I’ve always enjoyed passing by, checking out the new additions and it would be a shame to wipe out all that effort. It really is one of the very last original remnants of the neighborhood.”

Further qualifying his appreciation of the outlaw artform, Moneypenny rhetorically asked, “What’s not to love about art created illegally and almost always by cover of night?”

It’ll be interesting to see if the ground floor’s future occupant shares that sentiment.

(Photo: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)