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October 01, 1999 08:30am
This Must Be High-Caliber Art
Source: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The debate on what is art in New York City gained momentum Thursday with the arraignment of a prominent Fifth Avenue art dealer who put on display arms and ammunition saying it was ``a work of art.''

Mary Boone, a celebrity gallery owner considered a trendsetter in the modern art world, was charged with the disposal of live ammunition and possession of an exposed rifle, which she said were all part of a sculptor's show called ''Cultural Prosthetics.''

``As far as I'm concerned, this is an outrageous attack on ... artists' right to express themselves. This is a First Amendment issue. This is a work of art,'' Boone told reporters after her release from jail.

Boone's arrest comes the same day the city filed a suit seeking the eviction of the Brooklyn Museum from a city-owned building because of an art show that includes an elephant dung-stained portrait of the Virgin Mary that has enraged Mayor Rudolf Giuliani and some Roman Catholic groups.

Police said they recovered 234 live rounds of 9mm ammunition cartridges from a glass vase at Boone's Fifth Avenue gallery. Police said they found four double-barreled shotguns -- two of which were operable.

Ron Warren, a gallery spokesman, said the bullets were a commentary on popular culture. He said that having the bullets in a candy bowl was like saying ``bullets are as casual as a piece of candy.''

Boone, 47, faces a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail on each of the violations. She also faces a $50 fine or 30 days in jail for failing to properly secure two operable rifles on display.

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