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The NYPD shut down this gallery opening after thousands of art lovers turned up

The many works at O'Flaherty's Art Gallery are only viewable by flashlight.

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Written by
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Art brings people together...and tears them apart. Such was the case at O'Flaherty's summer group show opening on Thursday, July 14.

"The Patriot" is an open-call submission project in which artists of all mediums and abilities were invited to drop off their pieces—the smaller, the better—at the gallery at 55 Avenue C in the week leading up to the show. Over 700 pieces of art cover O'Flaherty's walls and ceiling and are fully visible only by flashlight because they're displayed in the dark.

"We literally took any piece of shit you brought in whether it was awesome or total trash and tried to make it an idea," reads a press release from O'Flaherty's. "The Patriot is a truly democratic show where everyone is treated equally like shit."  

In what is now being dubbed as more of a "shit show" than an art show, the opening was extremely popular, bringing out an estimated 1,000 viewers lined up on the Alphabet City blocks surrounding the small gallery. That's a lot of frustrated artists outside on a summer night. And thus, the NYPD came to break up the crowd and the opening night of The Patriot, scheduled to run through August 10. 

"Thank you, go home," gallery owner Jamian Juliano-Villani shouted at the crowd through a megaphone while surrounded by uniformed NYPD officers on Thursday night. "Move mother fuckers, move, thank you," she added to cheers from art fans. "We love you," someone shouted back. 

Twenty-nine-year-old artist Marissa Graziano, who had a piece in the show along with what seems like the rest of the metro area, was getting drinks around the corner and heard there was a unified line wrapping around two blocks, “which I thought was both hilarious and interesting,” she says.

When I showed up around 9pm, the line had dissolved into a massive crowd that spilled out into the street,” she adds. “Wristbands that got you into Nublu were being passed around as people cracked the beers they brought with them. There were a couple of great rumors being passed around about what was happening inside: a drop floor in the gallery, Abraham Lincoln’s blood-stained pillow from his assassination on display…cops shut everything down about a half hour later.” 

"It was a beautiful shit show," recalls 30-year-old artist BARC The Dog, whose work is displayed in The Patriot. "I really admire the attitude and energy that Jamian brings to the art world. Complete chaos in the best way possible. It was a wild experiment."

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