Not Famous… Yet

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Filed under: Art Pranks

Hangin’ with big boys: Artist slips in stealth exhibit at Brooklyn Museum
by Mike McLaughlin
September 29th 2009
New York Daily News

Some artists will do anything to get their work shown in a museum.


Painter Mat Benote secretly hung one of his paintings in the Brooklyn Museum earlier this month – and it remained for two days before museum officials discovered it and snatched it off the wall.

“This is high-art graffiti,” said Benote, who lives in the city, but won’t say where. “It’s not really destroying anything.”

Museum officials declined to comment on Benote’s stunt, but a worker told the Brooklyn News the prank inflicted minor damage to a wall on the fourth-floor contemporary art gallery.

Benote’s escapade in the museum on Eastern Parkway was the final stop in a month-long tour.

He crisscrossed the country and secretly installed paintings at 11 other museums – and even slipped one past the guards at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

Officials at most of the museums discovered Benote’s addition to their collections almost immediately and took it down.

But in one case, a Birmingham, Ala., museum left Benote’s artwork up for four days.

Benote tried to put up one painting in each of the 12 museums that combine to make a large mural that says, “I seek” in Chinese.

“It’s a celebration of mankind’s unending search for knowledge,” said Benote, who wouldn’t say how old he is except to note that he was born after 1960.

Benote defended his actions, saying his painting was actually a “gift” to the Brooklyn Museum – a cultural institution he likes for its relatively low admission price of $10, compared to the steep $20 entrance fee at other city museums.

“So many museums have lost what they’re supposed to be about,” said Benote. “They’re supposed to inspire people.” The Brooklyn Museum, he said, “is still on the right track.”

Giving the gift to one of his favorite institutions turned into an excellent adventure for Benote.

“It gets your heart pounding with security and all the foot traffic around,” said Benote, who used double-sided tape to stick his painting in the contemporary art wing on Sept. 19.

He divided the painting into quarters and covered them with Plexiglas; hauled them on his back into the museum and hung them when the coast was clear.

But the recipients of his artistic gifts are rarely grateful for his generosity. Only the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha is considering adding Benote’s donation to its permanent collection.

Art fans visiting the museum gave Benote’s antics a mixed review.

Priscilla Vazquez, 23, from Bedford-Stuyvesant, applauded him for shaking things up. “It makes the museum more democratic,” she said.

Others said there are better ways for aspiring artists to get exposure.

“He could start his own gallery and select unknown artists to show their work,” said Aaron Schneider, 69, from SoHo.