A 1983 art show on the Williamsburg Bridge

Could this May 1983 ad be the first sign of the coming artist colonization and eventual gentrification of Williamsburg?

Published in the now-defunct downtown arts monthly East Village Eye, it promoted an outdoor sculpture exhibition set up on the Delancey Street side of the empty and decrepit Williamsburg Bridge.

98 Bowery, a website that chronicles the East Village/Lower East Side arts scene of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, has a writeup and photos of the Williamsburg Bridge Show, as it was known:

“The neglected promenade seemed like the perfect place for a large-scale sculpture show. For two years, the sculptors grappled with the strict requirements imposed by the city’s Department of Transportation, which administers the deteriorating bridge.”

“The opening coincided with the centennial celebration of the Brooklyn Bridge, a synchrony which attracted attention to the show. The works, however, also attracted vandals and thieves, and a number of sculptures disappeared before a week had passed.”

You might recognize at least one artist’s name: Tom Otterness. He’s the sculptor behind those whimsical brass figures and critters at the Eighth Avenue and 14th Street subway station.

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