The Shmooze

Orthodox Neighbors Angry Over Pornographic Exhibit on Lower East Side

By Michael Kaminer

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While adolescent yeshiva students may not share their dissatisfaction, Orthodox Jewish neighbors of a Lower East Side art gallery have issued a chorus of complaints over a current exhibition involving pornographic images

According to the New York Post, the Allegra LaViola Gallery’s new “Pornucopia” show “features a slew of sexy nude images of men and women, some having sex… Some of the ‘porn’ pieces are clearly visible through the East Broadway gallery’s windows – and people are fuming that kids are being exposed to smut.”

Miriam Katz, a teacher at the nearby Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem school, told the Post the show is “disgusting… My students are innocent children, and they walk by and shouldn’t be exposed to this disgrace… You see in quite detail the anatomy of women. There’s a yeshiva there with boys who pass by every day.”

According to art site ArtInfo, “the gallery has been fielding phone calls all week from angry neighbors, including the local rabbi, who asked LaViola to put up a curtain to cover the offending paintings. She then began getting visits from the police who were called on obscenity complaints, but they ‘have been quite supportive,’ said LaViola, who added that the officers apologetically explained that they are obligated to respond to any calls they receive.”

LaViola declined neighbors’ requests to reorganize the exhibition, she said, because she had already intentionally hung the front with tamer works, ArtInfo reported. The Orthodox community “is set up from to be separate from the world. But at the same time, they live in New York City. They can’t be entirely isolated,” LaViola told ArtInfo.

Despite continuing complaints, the art dealer has no plans to back down. “It isn’t my job to be sensitive to the community- it’s my job to put on the best shows I can,” LaViola tweeted this week. “Blindfold the kids and leave me the hell alone.”


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