Visiting tigers in a Lower East Side art gallery? Just another day in the life of an officer of the New York City Police Department.
Half a dozen police officers stopped by the LES's Ramiken Crucible on Saturday afternoon for a second time upon hearing that there were tigers to be found there.
Since May 19, the small gallery has caged two five-month-old white tigers as part of a group show called "Ideal Pole: A Reality Testing" by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard running through July 8.
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"People in the neighborhood don't really know what to make of it," gallery owner Mike Ursata told ArtInfo.
The police officers looked over the documents and chatted with the trainer outside.
"When we got the call, we thought, 'That can't be right,'" said the officer to ArtInfo, as he peered through the window into the gallery as if to check in on the tigers. "We just came to check it out."
Though there were no complaints filed, the gallery has been under some scrutiny for keeping the tigers in what some view as an unsafe environment. Gothamist reported that the Ohio farm that owns the animals has been cited multiple times for providing unsafe conditions. The owners told ArtInfo that they had "rescued" the tigers' parents.
In a statement to Gothamist, the Humane Society of the U.S. wrote:
The baby tigers on display at the Ramiken Crucible gallery were prematurely removed from their mothers, transported to New York from a game farm in Ohio that has been cited for failing to meet minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and are confined to a tiny barren cage inside an art gallery.
Part one of the exhibition is now closed, which means the tigers have left the building. Part two, featuring artwork by mental patients Melgaard teaches at Bellevue Hospital, opens on May 31.
Last week, The New York Times gave the exhibit a mediocre review, citing the tigers as a "predictably sensational shortcut to an intensity that the current show mostly lacks."
As to the tigers themselves, they could symbolize any number of things, such as the artist himself. The Times' Roberta Smith speculates, "These amazing beasts may personify artists as caged exotic creatures who nonetheless are still capable of seriously biting the hands that feed them."