Culture & Arts

'RIP Taylor Swift' Mural Mourns The Death Of New York City

When Taylor Swift was named New York City’s “global welcome ambassador” last week by the city’s tourism board, Kara Mullins and Osvaldo Jimenez had an idea.

The couple commissioned local graffiti legend Chico (aka Antonio Garcia) -- who they knew through mutual friends -- to paint a memorial for Swift on the gate outside their vintage clothing store, La Petite Mort, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side:

"We here at LPM have nothing but love for Taylor Swift,” Mullins and Jimenez explained in an Instagram post. “Rather, our comment is on the whitewashing and gentrification of New York. While we realize and appreciate that New York is ever changing, when a starving artist once representative of the New York spirit is replaced by the modern 19 million dollar condo owner who drinks lattes we have to shake our heads.”

“While Taylor Swift is alive and well, and we wish her no harm, she did kill off yet another piece of that broken New York spirit,” the post continued. “The idea of her being our spokesperson is DEAD and we expressed that through a true NY artist. RIP TAYLOR SWIFT.”

Chico got his start painting memorials in the LES back in the 1980s, and “RIP Taylor Swift” is a sendup of his own work, Mullins explained to HuffPost on Monday. In other words, “RIP Taylor Swift” really means “RIP New York.”

Even Chico, Mullins added, has been “priced out” of his New York City apartment. He painted the Swift mural last week before leaving the city and moving down to Florida.

Critics, however, have charged that a boutique clothing store in the LES can hardly cry about gentrification. “La Petite Mort sells $550 used Versace dresses where $20 girdle stores used to thrive just a decade ago,” wrote the Daily News’ Linda Stasi.

Mullins said that her store also sells cheap clothing like dresses for under $50, as well as work by local artists for as little as $1. They sell the expensive stuff to pay the ever-rising rent in the neighborhood.

Jimenez, her boyfriend and store co-owner, is a born-and-bred New Yorker from the South Bronx who has lived in the LES for the last two decades. He compared selling expensive vintage clothes to drug-dealing.

“Drug dealers used to just sell crack in the LES until a more upscale clientele moved in,” he said. “And then in order to survive they had to start selling cocaine. This is our coke."

La Petite Mort doubles as an art gallery, and later this month, Mullins and Jimenez said they will host a Chico for a retrospective of his work.

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