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Queens Chronicle

No Longer Empty at Bank of Manhattan in LIC

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:30 am

In 1927 the newly built Bank of Manhattan clock tower stood pristinely over the industrial neighborhood of Long Island City, but over the years the building, much like the banking industry, began to decay.

The clock cracked.

The company moved out in the ’80s and then in 1990 Citibank built a metal and glass edifice that dethroned the bank as the tallest building in the borough.

Now, if only for a couple months, the nomadic public arts group No Longer Empty has filled the vacant bank once again. But the bankers of the early part of last century who had graced the floors of the 14-story skyscraper might not be too pleased with the theme of exhibition.

“What’s money?” artist Theodoros Stamatogiannis asked while standing in front of the pingpong table he installed on Monday morning.

“It’s a big game,” he retorted.

Stamatogiannis, who splits his time between the UK and Queens, is one of 26 artists in the show “How Much Do I Owe You?” — the 14th exhibition curated by No Longer Empty.

Stamatogiannis didn’t create the table, but said that’s not the point of his art.

“It’s not about if the artist makes it or not, it’s about the meaning of the object,” he said of the table, which was wedged between two walls and no longer could function as a pingpong table.

“It’s no longer functional in this space,” he said.

Downstairs in one of the building’s vaults is a film created by Brooklyn-based artist Orit Ben-Shitrit.

The film — a mixture of dance, French narration and social commentary — takes place in two epochs: modern day Wall Street and the years leading up to the French Revolution. Ben-Shitrit makes connections between John Law, a Scottish economist who advised the 18th Century French government and created one of the world’s first Ponzi schemes — and also killed a man for his love, Elizabeth — and a fictional banker whose lust for money, and his partner Elizabeth’s greed, led him to fraud.

“It’s a look at how power corrupts,” Ben-Shitrit said.

Other works include kites that look like giant dollar bills by Erika Harrasch, glass piggy banks filled with used lottery tickets by Colleen Ford and empty suits whose ties have become fighting snakes by Guerra de la Paz.

About a fourth of the artists live in Queens.

No Longer Empty’s mission is to scope out barren buildings all over New York City and transform them into cultural hubs for months at a time.

“Each exhibition is site-specific,” spokeswoman Lucy Lydon said.

In Manhattan the group curated a show about the changing music industry in the vacant Tower Records store on Broadway and West Fourth Street, and in the Bronx the artworks in an empty senior home for the once-well-to-do centered around hidden wealth.

The LIC project started months ago when Andover Realty approached No Longer Empty about occupying the bank.

It then progressed into a two-month research project. Staffers talked to established LIC arts organizations including representatives of Socrates Sculpture Park and the Noguchi Museum. They also walked around the neighborhood and visited artists’ studios and schools to see what people in LIC are concerned about, Lydon said.

These interviews were woven into the exhibition that will be on display through March.

“We’re not just a pop up. We’re not just saying this is art and then leaving,” Lydon said. “We want to bring something to the neighborhood that leaves a lasting impression.”

‘How Much Do I Owe You?’

When: through March 13, Thursday through Monday, 1 to 7 p.m.

Where: The Clock Tower, 29-27 41 Ave., LIC

Tickets: Free, nolongerempty.org

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