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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Yarn-Bombing Artist Olek Caught in London Legal Snarl [UPDATED]

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Olek, the New York crochet artist best known for covering the Wall Street Bull and the Astor Place cube in her signature purple and pink wool, has found herself in some legal trouble — but not because she knitted a sweater for the wrong public monument.

Over the weekend, the artist sent a cryptic Facebook message to some friends informing them that she has been detained in the UK. “I will be spending [the holiday season] in the Crown Court in London fighting for my freedom,” she wrote. She then asked her supporters to donate money to help her pay for lawyers. While some who received the message believe it was spam or a scam, writer Cat Weaver, who has collaborated with Olek on several projects, wrote on her blog the Art Machine that she had spoken to the artist on Skype to confirm the situation.

It’s unclear exactly what Olek is caught up in. As she told friends, wrote on Facebook, and explained in a web site she created for the cause, she has been advised to say very little about her predicament other than that she vigorously denies any wrongdoing. She posted an approved statement from her attorney noting that “on October 6 after donating a piece of her art to charity at a show in London, Olek was involved in an incident with a drunk and aggressive male who behaved reprehensively.” He adds that “very serious charges” have been leveled against her, and she has not had the chance to state her case before a court. It is unclear why she or her lawyer are unable to say what charges have been brought against her.

In a personal message on the site Olek added that she was able to change her bail conditions to travel to Poland for two shows, but that for over a month she had to abide by a curfew and wear a plastic tracking bracelet on her ankle. According to a comment she left on the critic Jerry Saltz’s Facebook page, her court date is December 22, and she will be able to provide more information then.

The Polish-born artist is offering postcards, prints, and specially-designed crochet artworks to those who donate. “Once it is over, I can tell stories… about people I met behind prison walls,” she wrote, “or why I want to come back there to teach how to crochet and give them hope for a better tomorrow.”

UPDATE, 3:00 p.m.: A representative from Olek’s New York gallery, Jonathan Levine, told IN THE AIR the artist’s e-mails and appeals are all coming from the artist herself and are not fraud or spam.

“I just need a lot, I mean a lot of money to bring this case to the end,” Olek wrote us in an e-mail. She added that Jonathan Levine gallery has helped her financially and assisted her in finding proper legal representation in England. Both the gallery and the artist refrained from providing any additional information about the incident on the advice of legal council.

— Julia Halperin

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