the October 1999 issue of Artforum

Cover of Artforum, October 1999.

IN OCTOBER 1999, Artforum devoted a special issue to East Village art—its confounding rise and precipitous fall. I’ve had a copy on my shelf ever since, and regard it as one of the essential postmortems of the scene.

On the cover is a photo of the artists David Wojnarowicz and Mike Bidlo at Pier 34, an abandoned warehouse extending into the Hudson River off Canal Street. At first I wondered why the editors had selected an image from outside the neighborhood, but the pier—and the unauthorized and uncurated “show” that popped up there in 1983—definitely functioned as an East Village satellite, embodying the scene’s best aspirations, featuring many of the same artists, and sharing its meteoric fate in an even more condensed period of time. A major goal in the East Village—in the early days—was to thumb a collective nose at the art establishment. In that cover

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