One terrible, cold, sleet-filled October day in 2011, I was walking down East 17th St on the way to a friend’s office. Just as I got to their building, I noticed this graffiti on a Muni Meter out front.
Being a Lou Reed fan myself, I took a picture. It just seemed like an odd thing. Did Lou Reed live on this block or something? Was the location a nod to Andy Warhol’s Factory (which had been around the corner on Union Square West)? Or was this some sort of street art tribute?
Turns out it was the latter, although I had no idea until yesterday, when I was reading about Macaulay Culkin’s pizza themed Velvet Underground cover band on Gawker (don’t ask). In the comments section, someone posted a piece of Lou Reed themed graffiti in a downtown Manhattan doorway, adding that it would be exactly where a pizza deliveryman would tag up. Someone else responded with a couple shots of two additional Lou Reed tags, and mentioned that they had seen them all over New York City.
A quick google search turned up quite a few more examples, some outside on stoops and parking meters (one on 18th St, the next block up from the one I saw), and some in the bathrooms of East Village bars like Heathers and Home Sweet Home. So, it seems like from around 2011 onwards, someone took it on board to write “Lou Reed” all over lower Manhattan.
Lou Reed lived on West 11th St, so most of these examples are in his general vicinity. I wonder if he ever saw any of these and what he thought. I also wonder if they were all done by the same person (the handwriting seems consistent enough), and what their motivation was.