Sometimes, the idea of cutting-edge art is worth more than the actual existence of said art. In the case of the new "luxury lofts" of 151 Wooster, the virtual proximity of a mural by Basquiat and friends might be worth a lot. The apartments are going for about $8 million (with a maintenance of $42,000 a year). The Times reported back in June: When they were tearing into the place, a mural was discovered on the eighth floor behind layers of sheetrock and plumbing. It was, if you're into this sort of thing, beautiful—a collaboration between Jean Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000 and others. Basquiat was friends with a previous dweller, art-magazine editor Edit deAk, who lived there in the early 80s when it was probably little more than a coldwater flat. The mural has been renamed "The 151 Wooster Wild Style Wall" and is now the centerpiece of "Gallery 151." And last night was the grand opening!

First of all, just how authentically artistic is the space at 151 Wooster? "The Heart of Soho... The art of so many. Ten luxury lofts, two extraordinary penthouses... a loftier way to live," intones the website.

Last night there were lots of people dressed in puffy Reeboks and neon spray-paint print shirts, listening to a DJ playing 80s music. Everyone was drinking free vodka like there was no tomorrow and ignoring the art, which included works by Fab 5 Freddy, Keith Haring, Kenny Sharf and Ero.

As for the mural, it was there—sort of. About a quarter of the original wall was on display, and the rest had been, well, Xeroxed. A photo had been taken of the original wall, printed onto vinyl and stretched across the wall. It's possible that the original was too fragile to be moved, as it had been bisected by pipes over the years.

Perhaps this was a statement about using art to create a feeling of authenticity that sells overpriced lofts, or maybe a remark about the loss of originality in a city where no place is safe from gentrification?

The program (which is riddled with typos and punctuation errors) had an interview with Fab Five Freddy. He says it all: "Twenty years later it's the preverbal [sic] mark on the wall."

Edit: We have been informed that the majority of the mural is currently on the 8th floor, where it was discovered, undergoing a conservation process so that it can be donated to a local museum. The gallery exhibit was on the second floor, where the copy of the mural (and a small part of the original) was on display.

[Photo: Robert Wright]