American Renaissance

Brooklyn Finally Shows Its True Colors In Borough Hall

Gersh Kuntzman, New York Post, Feb. 12

It’s not just a bunch of “old white guys” at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall any more.

Making good on one of his most controversial campaign promises, Borough President Marty Markowitz is using the walls of the “people’s house” to showcase African-American art, curated by Def Jam poetry co-founder Danny Simmons.

The monthlong exhibition in Borough Hall’s official public hearing room opened Tuesday night.

“We are always celebrating the diversity of Brooklyn,” Markowitz said. “And not just during Black History Month.”

It’s something Markowitz has been trying to do since taking office in 2002. At the time, he said he intended to take down portraits of “the old white guys,” including the greatest old white guy of them all, George Washington. “There’s not one picture of a person of color, not one kid, not one Latino in Borough Hall,” Markowitz said.

Washington’s portrait remains, but it’s been joined by contemporary works by Jamilah Jennings, Aisha Bell, Vince Hunter and a painting of the pope by Jide Ojo that’s sure to make some waves.

Titled, “The Apologiser,” it’s a not altogether flattering portrait that makes reference to John Paul II’s apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the slave trade. It resembles the Virgin Mary portrait that caused a scandal a few years ago at the Brooklyn Museum-without the elephant dung. And Bell’s lustful “Sweet Thing” — a portrait of a woman with voluptuous curves and “inviting hips [and] enticing thighs” — will certainly make attending public hearings interesting.

“She paints what she sees in her neighborhood,” said Simmons, the older brother of rap mogul Russell Simmons. “Artwork like hers goes a long way toward making Borough Hall more inclusive.”