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New York 'Art Downtown' - 2002-07-13

The works of prominent contemporary painters, sculptors and photographers are on display in five new exhibitions designed to revitalize New York's lower Manhattan, near the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Wall Street is synonymous with corporate America. Thousands of workers dressed in conservative business attire crowd the historic street, home to the New York Stock Exchange. But since the attacks at the nearby World Trade Center sites, businesses, small and large alike, have faced economic challenges.

In an effort to breathe new life into Lower Manhattan a group called "Wall Street Rising" organized "Art Downtown," bringing works predominantly from the trendy So-Ho and Chelsea neighborhoods to the center of corporate America.

"Wall Street Rising" founder Julie Menin said many of New York's top artists and galleries joined forces to display more than 100 works valued at $17 million. "It was a real challenge. It was something that we pulled together in four months and essentially we had to act as any museum would have to [act] with security and the insurance and the transportation. And it really was a labor of love," she said.

Ms. Menin said one of the most popular works on view is a painting by the late-Andy Warhol, on loan from a top Manhattan gallery. "It is a unique piece. It is called "Camouflage" and it is one of our star pieces of the exhibit. It is actually a camouflage painting, although it is a little bit blue, not just green," she said.

A tall yellow and black sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein, who died in 1997, is also on view. The sculpture, called "Endless Drip," looks like a giant tear or water from a dripping faucet.

Also on display are works by important living artists, including Jeff Koons, canine photographs by William Wegman, and portraits by Chuck Close.

Organizer Menin said the exhibitions set up in five separate buildings also aims to bring attention to the historic financial district. The largest of five galleries has found a home in the recently renovated vast marble entrance of Wall Street's Grand Banking Hall. "I wanted people to be able to see the beauty of the financial district. Many of these buildings are landmark buildings and the buildings in and of themselves are really works of art," she said. "And so I wanted people to easily walk from one to the next, which will force them to explore everything that is really wonderful about this community."

Works by young people, three to 18-years old who witnessed the attacks are also in the exhibit, showing their artistic interpretations of lower Manhattan. One work is a multi-colored cut out collage of the Twin Towers. Others illustrate peaceful neighborhood scenes of playgrounds and flowers.

Robin Nahas works in a building that now features five giant paintings by Julian Schnabel called "Hat Full of Rain." Mr. Nahas said that the art has helped make the corporate area come alive. "Whether I like the individual works of art or not is up to taste but I do like these here," he said. "I think it is nice to have and I think it is good for the city to have art on display not just downtown but particularly in places where they want to revitalize the area. It gives people the idea that it is not rundown, it is not dying or anything like that."

Corporate sponsors spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on "Art Downtown." Organizers say the project has been a success, at least 2,000 tourists, workers and residents have visited the exhibition each week since it opened late last month.