On Saturday, Mella LaFrance took the tapered wooden legs off of her canary-yellow sofa, hauled it down five flights of stairs, and left it on the curb near her East Village apartment. LaFrance figured someone might take it home — just like she had when she came across it on a curb last fall. After putting it on the sidewalk, she expected never to see it again. So it was a shock when she saw the @StoopingNYC Instagram account shared a photo of her couch with “SEX AND THE SETTEE” spray-painted across it in black. “At first, I thought it was funny,” said LaFrance. “But then the ecofeminist in me really loved that couch and wishes it did go to a good home.” The post quickly racked up more than 7,000 likes and a wall of furious comments. One person called the graffiti “privileged,” another dubbed it “uncreative,” and someone else described the artist behind it, Adrian Wilson, as an “edgelord.” The overall consensus was that Wilson had doomed the couch to the dump.
“If I had to imagine the Dr. Evil of the stooping community, this is it,” said Natalie Moore, 28, an artist and a librarian in Washington Heights, who had commented on the post. Moore, who has furnished her own place with stooping finds like a heavy antique mirror and a lantern-style floor lamp, added, “Dude, you are not Banksy — spray painting a bunch of words on things on the sidewalk is not going to actually add any value for most people.” The angry comment thread on the tagged couch actually led @StoopingNYC to delete the post, but not before explaining, “We honestly thought that the art gave the piece more perceived value. We certainly continue to learn from all of you.” In the end, the account administrators decided to take the post down in part because of all the comments insulting Wilson. The artist, who has been tagging discarded mattresses, chairs, and other items on the street for years, had become the villain of the stooping world overnight.
The couch might have gone to Toby Finke, a 19-year-old Parsons student, who spotted it on his way home. He was waiting for a friend to help him carry it when he realized it had been graffitied (a couple of trash bags placed on it had initially covered the paint up). “It’s just obnoxious,” said Finke. “It’s not like it was his own couch or it was entirely unusable.”
But Wilson insists that no one was taking the couch home before he got to it. “I only tag stuff that’s absolutely crap, that’s going to go to the landfill anyway,” said the 57-year-old artist. Based on his Instagram feed, it does seem that the most frequent target of his tags — like “LAID MISERABLES” — are discarded mattresses, which are by no means a desirable curbside find. He said the couch was foul-smelling and had multiple stains when he discovered it on the sidewalk in a jumble of pieces. (There were some red wine stains on the couch, according to LaFrance, but it does have removable cushion covers that can be thrown in the wash.) Wilson readily admits that his tagging is not high art. “I don’t pretend that it’s anything more than a dad joke,“ he said. “And 7,000 people,” he said, referring to the likes on the deleted post, “just saw it for what it was, which was a fun pun.”