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Crime and Misdemeanors

THERE WAS SOMETHING NEVER QUITE CREDIBLE about the explosion of galleries and artists that happened in the East Village in the mid-’80s. It had a feeling about it suggestive of a feral swarm, a feeding frenzy that somehow overwhelmed the thing it supposedly was about, this “art” thing that in Manhattan had always been neighborhood specific or even bar specific—I mean Cedar Tavern specific, or Max’s Kansas City specific, or SoHo specific; an element of contrivance had slipped in, something “simulacral,” to use a word very popular at the time. When you looked at the East Village before and after, the impression was there that the whole thing had been a developer’s wet dream all along, that a huge chunk of fallow property had morphed into a giant cash cow in a magically short time.

You had to have been there at least a little before it all happened, when Second Avenue didn’t have outdoor cafés

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