Bloomberg Censors Atari Game Promotion


Following criticism by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his Office of City Affairs revoked a permit granted to Marc Ecko to host an August 24 "block party" to promote a new Atari game called, "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure." The game features characters who graffiti a city in defiance of corrupt government officials. The event was to center around graffiti artists tagging models of old New York City blue-bird subway cars. When Bloomberg caught wind of the promotion, he said, "Look, there is a fine line here between freedom of expression and going out and encouraging people to hurt this city. Defacing subway cars is hardly a joke. Encouraging people, kids in particular, to do that after all the money we've spent, all the time we've spent removing graffiti."

Certainly, the city does not want to be bombarded with un-approved graffiti but here we have an event created specifically for the artistic expression of graffiti where nothing other than sponsor-paid props are being used as canvas for the artists. Not one bit of city landscape is involved. Sure, it's all about marketing a promoting a game that involves encouraging graffiti. But it's a game. Not real life. There's a difference. Atari and Mark Ecko have provided talented artists with a legal, sanctioned channel through which to create and celebrate graffiti as an art form. Is it really any different that Time Magazine's hiring of COPE2 to paint a sponsor-paid billboard? We think not.

Art seems to express itself whether it is given a canvas or not. In this case, the smart thing for Bloomberg to do, in the long run, is provide that canvas.

UPDATE: Marc Ecko has written an open letter explaining his position in the Comment section.

by Steve Hall    Aug-16-05   Click to Comment   
Topic: Outdoor, Policy, Promotions   

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In my home town there is a coffee shop that has a different graffiti artist come in every month or so and paint one of its exterior walls. Its usually really good stuff, and nice to see on my drive into work in the morning.

Whenever art (in any form) can be injected into culture in an appropriate, legal, manner that allows as many people as possible to enjoy, I don't see a problem.

Posted by: nick on August 16, 2005 11:25 AM

I seem to remember an episode of the Apprentice where the Donald has the young "aprenti" doing a burner promoting Grand Tourismo. Certainly, promoting a game that encourages folks to drive wrecklessly through city streets would warrant a similar cry of outrage from be Bloomie. Hmmm, the old ghetto double standard...

Atari should take the free publicity and run with it to Newark.

Posted by: John on August 16, 2005 1:42 PM

Graffiti in NYC is historically based on marking territory. It grew into an act of pure civil disobedience through the growing mistrust of intrusive marketing. This game and any event to promote it are the new legs by which marketing strategists have created to sell stuff. If anyone cracks down on its use to market anything then we better start looking at all products that use it freely - under arm deodorant, fast cars, faster food, digital music players, kids toys, etc..... Mark Ecko is simply using the same weapons plied against us daily to rise above the bang of the nonstop media we are force fed. And Cope 2 is dope, so if Bloomberg has a problem with it then I suggest he take it to the marketers who have used it without caution for the past 20 or so years. Besides graffiti will outlive this game as it has for 1000's of years.

Posted by: jeben berg on August 16, 2005 1:53 PM

Graffiti and New York go hand in hand. Bloomberg blocks a permit that allows graf artists to legally paint? What kind of sense does that make. Does he really think artists won't take it back to the streets?

Posted by: Jordan on August 16, 2005 4:14 PM

As politically incorrect as my opinion is likely to be taken, I think Bloomberg is spot on. He's following the example of Guiliani, who cut NYC's crime dramatically by stopping the seemingly petty stuff, such as vandalism, grafitti, purse snatching and so on. He didn't accept, as I don't, that it is a harmless 'expression' with no consequences, and the stats certainly bear this out.

Look at any of the movies of the 80s compared with now - see how much better the City looks now. People enjoy it more without the uninvited territorial intrusion of these individuals, regardless of the subjective assessment of grafitti as "art".

Dogs also 'mark their territory' and have an urge to do so - doesn't mean we'd want them to do it on us or our property. There's a fine for that now, too.


Posted by: Stevie on August 17, 2005 12:59 PM


You are right here: As politically incorrect as my opinion is likely to be taken, I think Bloomberg is spot on. He's following the example of Guiliani...

Guiliani as well all know led that huge protest against the Virgin Mary with the dung on it. He appointed himself art expert of NYC and tried to shut down the show. Similairly, Bloomberg, who doesn't happen to like this form of art, wants to censor the art.

Not to mention it's the medium the mayor opposses due to the style of art. Is this were oil painters would the mayor be intervening?

Point is that the Mayor has appointed himself as art czar and he will now get to decide whether or not thousands of NY'ers can see artists paint on replica... I REPEAT REPLICA trains. Most of the artists involved haven't painted trains since the 1980's.

Posted by: Bucky da ANIMAL on August 17, 2005 1:20 PM

The Mayor welcomed that big orange mess "written" all over Central Park. Big money loves museum ART.

Posted by: owen plotkin on August 17, 2005 8:57 PM


August 17, 2005

In recent days, certain members of New York’s City Hall have raised significant concern over an outdoor art exhibition scheduled to be held on Wednesday, August 24th, on West 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.  The City has gone so far as to revoke an event permit we have had in hand since July 18, 2005.

Unfortunately the spirit of the event, as it was originally conceived and as it has been presented to the appropriate civic groups and government officials since November 2004, seems to have been lost in the haste to stereotype all graffiti-style artists as “vandals” and to brand this event as a “promotion of crime.”

At its core, this is an event designed to celebrate an art form born from the streets of New York over two decades ago as a means of creative self expression, allowing the public a unique chance to experience the workmanship and skill that go into creating a piece of art fine enough to hang on the walls of any traditional gallery or museum.  Upon completion, a 48 foot mural will be donated to The Point, a Bronx-based nonprofit youth development organization, while the remaining nine will be placed throughout the city for public display.
This is my tribute to the 20 participating artists whose works now command top dollar across the globe, as well as to an art form powerful enough to permeate virtually every moment in our lives, from the ads and music videos we watch on TV to the products we wear and consume.

I am not, for the record, here as a graffiti artist.  My style pales in comparison to people like Pink, Cope2, and T-Kid.  I am, however, here as a by-product of their sense of style and their truly unique aesthetic language, drawing influence from their work in every one of my business ventures and surrounding myself at night with their canvas, photographs, and sculptures.

I am well aware that drawing graffiti in public places is a crime, and I do not condone or encourage it.  At the same time, however, graffiti is a legitimate and historical part of the great art history of our city.  The visual dialect is alive and well, and contrary to the opinion of certain elected officials, just because you draw on paper that way doesn't mean that you are writing on walls. That is the dialect that these artists and others like them dream through, that informed their creative energy so early on and helped them to go on to become a muralist, a film maker, a story teller, and even a clothing designer.

We are, as we have for nearly 10 months, continuing our dialogue with the proper authorities to reach a mutually agreed upon means of hosting this event on August 24 as planned.  I have retained legal counsel who will vigorously and zealously represent my First Amendment interests, and those of my fellow artists and the community at large.  In the meantime, I will continue to focus on what promises to be an enjoyable day of free art and music for the city that is home to my operations and that so generously embraced our “Save the Rhinos” benefit concert in Central Parkless than two months ago.

-Marc Ecko

Posted by: neil nice on August 17, 2005 10:20 PM

Marc, the courage to stick with your vision will set you apart from your peers. Word up! and make this event happen by any means necessary. History doesn't remember those that roll over when it's time to assert yourself. Graff Life is part of the blood of NYC.

Posted by: Jeben Berg on August 22, 2005 3:32 PM

We won hands down. Thank you to all for your support and we hope to see you on Wednesday...


- Federal Court Orders Immediate Reinstatement of Street Permit for August 24th Block Party -

(New York, NY), August 22, 2005 – Fashion designer and entrepreneur Marc Ecko, on behalf of his company *ecko unltd., today announced a favorable decision in a lawsuit the Company filed against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City of New York in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on Friday, August 19.

As a result, the first-of-its-kind street festival, free and open to the public, will be held as originally scheduled on August 24th on 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues from 12:00PM – Dusk. The event will feature ten 48-foot-long by 8-foot-high replicas of the legendary NYC transit blue-bird subway cars, which will be transformed into contemporary urban works of art by 20 renowned graffiti writers.

Commenting on the court’s decision, Mr. Ecko stated, “Today is further affirmation that graffiti is without question the most powerful art movement in recent history. This event was conceived as a tribute to the roots of graffiti culture, a time in New York City’s history that I chose to believe was worth fighting to preserve. I never envisioned having to go to Court when we started working with the City on this event 10 months ago, but was left with no other choice when the City asked us to change our chosen art canvas and, as such, tried to censor my first amendment rights and those of these great artists by attempting to dictate how we express ourselves.

“Graffiti is an art form without borders, one which touches people of every gender, age, race, income class and political affiliation on a daily basis and today’s decision is further affirmation that it is here to stay. Graffiti does not, as some in city hall have claimed, have to be a gateway to crime. It can also be a gateway to opportunity and success when channeled properly, and I hope that the Mayor accepts my offer to join me on Wednesday as we channel our creative energies together.”

Gregg Donnenfeld, Assistant General Counsel for *ecko unltd. added, “We are extremely pleased, though not surprised, by Judge Rakoff’s recognition that graffiti is indeed a legitimate form of art, and that the City has no right to dictate how that art is expressed. Marc Ecko's block party will therefore proceed as planned, with a live graffiti art demonstration open to the public at no charge, with the world's top graffiti artists using mock subway trains as their art canvases.”

“Should the City attempt to appeal the Judge's decision, we will continue to fight for our First Amendment rights, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. However, at this point we do not anticipate any appeals, and instead just look forward to what will be a spectacular art event for all of the public and New York's art community to celebrate.,” Donnenfeld continued.

*ecko unltd. thanks attorney Dan Perez of the Kuby & Perez law firm for his great work on this case, proving again that he's one of the top First Amendment lawyers in all of New York, if not the country, and also the New York Civil Liberties Union for its continued support in this effort.

Posted by: neil nice on August 23, 2005 1:59 AM