2 suspected French taggers sought in Little Tokyo
Two French nationals believed to be in Los Angeles for a street art exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen Contemporary gallery are being sought for allegedly vandalizing a Little Tokyo office building, Los Angeles police officials said Friday.
LAPD Officer Jack Richter said the two were detained early Friday by city authorities after being caught with graffiti implements and released at the scene. But the LAPD is continuing its investigation.
"Both suspects possessed French passports and were attempting to vandalize the Peres building," Richter said. "The LAPD is vigilant about preventing vandalism and, when apprehended, these two French tourists will be treated with a trip to our new jail facility."
The incident comes as the Los Angeles Police Department expressed concern about a jump in vandalism and graffiti connected to the opening of the "Art in the Streets" exhibit at Geffen Contemporary. Over the last two days, multiple buildings, signs, dumpsters and light fixtures have been tagged with large, so-called bombs and smaller moniker tags in the immediate vicinity of the museum.
The exhibit will feature paintings, mixed-media sculptures and interactive installations by 50 artists emphasizing Los Angeles' "role in the evolution of graffiti and street art, with special sections dedicated to seminal local movements such as cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture."
Museum Director Jeffrey Deitch told The Times on Thursday that efforts were being made to minimize the effect on property owners through increased security patrols outside the museum and to help businesses that have been targeted by vandalism.
For the most part, community leaders have embraced the event, but also have been wary about the increase in graffiti in recent days.
"I'm not against art and I'm not apposed to MOCA. They [MOCA] are doing wonderful stuff and making money for the businesses in the area," said longtime area business owner Anthony Sperl. "This is a form of art that they have every right to express. But there's a down side and the down side is a small percentage of people who think that they are doing art but are doing vandalism and costing property owners thousands of dollars in damage."
Sperl was behind his building in the 300 block of East 1st Street about 1 a.m. Friday when he saw two men coming down the fire escape at the Peres building. The men were each carrying plastic buckets and inside there was glue or grout, plastering equipment and tiles.
Moments later, a tenant at the Peres building informed Sperl that the two had been on the roof and had committed vandalism. Officers from the city Department of General Services did not arrest the suspects because both men are from Paris.
Sperl, whose building sits 400 feet from the museum entrance, said Friday he intends to be out every night for the next week keeping a watchful eye out for any graffiti vandals.
"I hope people enjoy the art and have a positive experience," Sperl said, noting he has friends who are part the exhibit. "But we will stand ready to deal with any individuals who show up to do something negative."
Map shows location of where two French taggers are believed to have vandalized a building. Source: Google Maps