New York

Shocked Owner of NYC Building Bearing 4-Story Phallus Paints It Over

What to Know

  • Swedish artist Carolina Falkholt painted a four-story-tall phallus on the side of a building in the Lower East Side over the weekend
  • It appears she never got permission from the building owner to do so -- and the installation had been painted over by Wednesday afternoon
  • The controversial painting sparked heated discussion on the artist's social media page and in the community

The shocked owner of a Manhattan building covered in an artist's four-story installation of a colorful phallus has painted over the artwork less than a week after it popped up.

The 40-foot painting appeared on the side of an apartment building on Broome Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets on the Lower East Side on Christmas Eve, sparking a range of reaction varying from outrage to praise and laughter.

"It's crazy. It's crazy," said passerby Robert Collins on Wednesday. "It's weird."

Susan Demmet shrugged it off, saying, "It looks fine. It's abstract."

Sal Valvo said of the phallus -- painted in pink, orange, purple and red -- "Some genitals on the wall, it's probably a bit vulgar. It's kind of funny." 

Swedish artist Carolina Falkholt said the mural and another, which shows a more abstract depiction of a vagina on Pike Street, were "about not being ashamed of your body and who you are as a sexual being."

"Talking about these subjects in public space is a must for a healthy, nonviolent community/world," she said. "And the dialogue created around feminist public art pieces raises awareness."

The piece was commissioned by a street art foundation called The New Allen, which is run by a Peruvian restaurant nearby called Baby Brassa. 

But it appears neither the artist or the foundation ever got permission from the building owner to put up the provocative mural.

When reached for comment Wednesday, a woman who answered the phone at the company that owns the building had no idea of the phallic painting. Within hours, workers showed up with scaffolding, apparently getting ready to paint over the mural. By 4:30 p.m., the bright pink penis painting had been painted over gray. 

The building superintendent, Jason Estrada, also told News 4 on Wednesday that "no one knew, absolutely not." 

But, he added, "It's art, man. At the end of the day, it's freedom of expression. I'm into street art, and I like it. It doesn't bother me."

News 4 has reached out again to Falkholt for a response to her mural being painted over.

The New Allen hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment but in an email to a community leader who complained about the artwork, a representative with the group apologized for offending her and said the installation was only meant to be on display until Jan. 18. 

"As you know we work with several artists and try to bring street art for everyone to enjoy. The last piece is definitely a very strong statement that we discussed with the artist but she had some pretty good points in order to make this piece," said the representative in the email.

Falkholt's own Instagram profile was the site of much of the controversial discussion after the artist posted an image of the giant painting on Sunday.

"I have never heard so much laughter and seen so many happy faces behind my back when painting as for today doing this wall on Broome Street," wrote the graffiti artist.

But some people living and walking in the area say they found it offensive.

"It's nasty. No one should put that up there," said Kes Hunt.  

Others defended the work. Lower East Side resident Tom Spaulding told News 4 Wednesday, "She's put a lot of effort into it. She's passionate about what she does. It's causing great reaction. People are talking about it, well done."

"I don't think it should come down. Leave it up there. Who cares, I think it's decent," said John Lekovic.  

Falkholt is a Swedish artist in New York as part of the International Studio and Curatorial Program. Her works, which have been featured in several European museums, often feature the female body and are meant to challenge gender stereotypes.

"Art is one of the only places left where we can truly be free and discuss whatever difficult topics there are, since art has the ability to translate and transform language in any direction possible," she said.

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