Cost's Showpaper Box Recovered Interview
It’s Friday afternoon at Mars Bar in the East Village – the last remaining EV-style bar, graffitied into obliteration. A man in a faded black New York Knicks hat, a blue and brown flannel, New Balance sneakers and jeans sits sipping a Yeungling Dark Lager at the bar. He’s talking to a bearded guy in a baby-blue T-shirt with Keith Hernandez screen printed across the chest, sipping Budweiser. The former is New York City graff legend COST. The latter is Brooklyn filmmaker and curator Andrew H. Shirley.
The two haven’t known each other long, but buzz like old friends. Shirley recently curated The Community Serviced, an art show cut from a different cloth: twelve newspaper boxes were collected, artists were paired up to refashion each (COST got his own) and then the boxes were dropped in the street, full of Showpaper, a single-page broadsheet newspaper with a listing of every all-ages show in the Tri-State area. But COST’s box was stolen off the street with 75 hours of being put down. Here’s how the pair reacted, after recovering the art object from the thief.
ADAM COST: It definitely rubbed me wrong. It was a blatant fuck you. The whole thing was a blatant fuck you. It was put out there and instantly stolen. That’s a fuck you. It was put up on eBay. That’s a fuck you. Then I go on the eBay account and look at the history. And he’s sold a REVS sculpture two weeks before. That’s a triple fuck you. At that point I said, “we’ve got to take some action against this guy.” I got triple fucked! I looked in the mirror and said, “I’ve got to do something!” I was pacing back and forth in my apartment, saying, “I just got triple fucked by some clown! I’ve got to take action!” And Andrew and everyone else were eager to act. This all happened on the cusp of that Art Basel thing. So everyone was leaving town, but all this was going on here. I was just pacing around in my apartment basically going nuts about my box on eBay. And they’re putting a price on it and I don’t want a price on my artwork, on any level. I’m watching bids go up and days ticking down… I was very upset, to say the least.
ANDREW H. SHIRLEY: It’s funny because I told the guy from the beginning: “Listen. COST knows you have this box and he’s not happy.” And he was adamant. “Oh I know COST’s friends. They say that he doesn’t care about it.” The first email I sent him was three sentences. It said: You can do the right thing still and return the box. It does not belong to you, you’re selling stolen property. COST knows you have the box. Do the right thing. Man up. He just sent me this barrage of like: “Are you threatening me?”
AC: All he saw were dollar signs on this box. And he was coming from that angle.
AHS: He had no idea it was going to be as big a deal as it was. He had no idea he was going to get four thousand dollars on it. You can still see the bids on the tracking page, but he said he was thinking maybe nine hundred bucks? He had even sold a REVS piece for $1500? He had no idea he was going to make four thousand dollars on this.
AC: And to the end the kid wanted money. He was trying to barter for five and sixty hundred dollars in the end, due to his like, investment in trying to sell it and getting items to transport it when he stole it – the materials. I don’t know how he came up with an exact number. But that was his claim. No one was giving that guy five sixty. I had to explain that to him on the phone. That was just not happening.
AHS: I told him: “At the opening, I bought the beers for the artists. They didn’t even have enough money to let the artists drink for free. So I came out of my pocket for that at the opening.” I said: “Do you think they’re going to give you five hundred bucks? I’m not trying to say they’re cheap. But Showpaper didn’t have money for any of this. Every single artist came out and donated their time and materials for free. There was no incentive. There was no parking paid for. There was no transportation. There were beers and food and pizza. And we had an awesome time doing. It was an amazingly collaborative experience.
AC: It was something perfect for me to be involved in. It wasn’t some high-tech, big money scheme were someone was going to take these boxes and make a killing off of them. When the guy took the box and popped it on eBay, it went against everything the project stood for. That was a shame. And I would think it upset every artist who participated on some level. And we wanted to act on it. We didn’t know how at first, and luckily we recovered the box. I seem to be on the fringes, just dipping my foot in the water. But people are pushing me, telling me, “now’s a great time to get involved.” And that’s a concern. Because I’m not sure on what level or how deep I want to plunge into the water. Because I don’t want to be exploited like various others of the time. But I think this is where I belong. Hopefully I’ll keep moving in that direction. You can’t trade happiness for money. If somehow you can find a nice balance, that’s great. But this stuff has always done something for the soul. And just doing random work to make money… there’s an empty feeling in that. I felt like on my end on the project was a success And getting involved with Andrew and everyone else involved was terrific. And I would have actually had trouble working with another artist on a box because I’m used to working large scale. But I had no problem working with the other artists and interacting with them. I was doing it as a joint effort in an open space. It was different, yet intriguing. I really enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I would like to do it again, actually.
AHS: And honestly, every artist that was there, when they first saw him, thought he was a cop.
AC: I get that a lot.