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It was inevitable that the East Village art scene of the 1980s would make a comeback: it was just too much fun, and too profitable. Not only does Howl! Happening now have an exhibition about the East Village Eye—whose succession of arts editors, including Walter Robinson and Carlo McCormick, charted the scene’s ebbs and flows throughout the decade—but Robinson himself is subject of a painting retrospective at Deitch gallery. Digging into our inventory of art and ephemera, Gallery 98 resurrects two totemic artifacts of the era: Roland Hagenberg’s East Village ’85, and the “Artropoly” board-game poster published to promote it.
If the crowded, competitive, incestuous East Village art scene resembled a high school, Hagenberg’s guide deliberately reads like its yearbook, with headshots of different artists and “senior pages” paid for by each gallery, as well as essays by artists and critics. In a contemporaneous interview with the Eye(headlined “The Avant-Garde Entrepreneur”), the Viennese-born photographer and journalist defended the mercenary attitude behind his project: “Commercialism is part of the East Village. I don’t see it in a negative way, but in the overall American society that is based on promoting, selling, and capitalizing on your ideas.”
The commercial character Hagenberg identified is parodied in the “Artropoly” poster, a fake Monopoly-style board game set among the galleries of the Lower East Side. Illustrator Mark Kostabi, known for his allegiance to the Warholian axiom “good business is the best art,” is the perfect match for Carlo McCormick’s tongue-in-cheek text (written with his famously glib colleague Robinson). Although many of the names have since faded from memory, the poster justifies Hagenberg’s claim that his tabloid-style art journalism would eventually “tell us more about the 1985–86 time than a package of reviews from the art magazines.”
Check out the book and poster on Gallery 98’s “Recent Additions” page, which also features other innovative projects from Hagenberg’s mid-’80s New York stay.