By Chris Farrell
Brian Whiteley got his tombstone back.
The artist came to the attention of New Yorkers — and the NYPD and Secret Service — after he cut a fence to install a grave marker carved with Donald Trump’s name and the epitaph “Made America Hate Again” in Central Park.
According to a story published in ArtNews last week, attorney Ronald Kuby helped Whiteley negotiate the return of the memorial stone that had been held in the police department’s Queens Property Office since it was seized just hours after its installation on Easter Sunday of this year (March 27).
The tombstone’s connection to Green-Wood Cemetery not only helped to expose the identity of Whiteley, who had hoped to remain anonymous but also provided a link to the artist’s earlier work.
Police are investigating the discovery of the artwork, which Whiteley titled The Legacy Stone, happened to begin the search at Supreme Memorials (610 4th Avenue at 17th Street), located just a few blocks from the cemetery. According to the New York Times, the cops chose the shop at random, but owners Frank and Michael Cassara immediately recognized the marker and turned over the name of the artist.
Whiteley had used Green-Wood for another original anonymous art project. As first reported by South Slope News in 2014, he dressed as a clown, complete with a red wig, rubber nose, floppy shoes, and “haunted” the graveyard by carrying balloons and crouching behind tombstones. Whiteley has since claimed credit for the clown’s visits to Green-Wood, and the performance art is documented on the artist’s website.
The website provides a further connection between the Green-Wood performance and the Trump Tombstone. The “Clown” section, which documents the Green-Wood haunting has photos of “Clown Costumes” that resemble photos of re-imagined Ku Klux Klan outfits posted in his politics section and titled “Trump Supporter Costumes.”
The ArtNews story didn’t reveal the current resting place of the Trump stone, but did report that it will be on display “alongside eight new, slightly different editions at Christopher Stout Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn.”
According to that report, Whiteley hopes that will be the last stop for the piece. “If Trump becomes President, God forbid, there will be a wealth of things to speak out about,” he said, but “ideally that doesn’t happen, and I can retire this as a one-time political protest piece.”