brooklyn artist takeshi miyakawa arrested for 'planting false bombs'
brooklyn artist takeshi miyakawa arrested for 'planting false bombs' brooklyn artist takeshi miyakawa arrested for 'planting false bombs'
may 21, 2012

brooklyn artist takeshi miyakawa arrested for 'planting false bombs'

the ‘I (heart) new york’ upcycled lighting installation has been called a ‘false bomb’ by a brooklyn judge, leading to takeshi miyakawa’s arrest and continued detainment

on may 19th, 2012, brooklyn-based designer takeshi miyakawa was arrested while installing an ‘I (heart) new york’ lighting project in the city, for allegedly ‘planting false bombs’ in manhattan and williamsburg, brooklyn.

in celebration of NY design week, ‘I (heart) new york’ was intended to show miyakawa’s love for the city, where he has lived for 23 years working as a furniture designer, and model-maker for renowned architect rafael vinoly. the project upcycles the ubiquitous ‘I ♥ NY’ plastic bags into illuminated lamps hanging from trees and lamposts. miyakawa himself is acclaimed internationally for his artistic experimentation of the highest level, using design as a means of activism with projects like the ‘red eclipse‘ table to raise funds for humanitarian relief work after the japan earthquake.

instead, a passerby called the police on friday night to report a package attached to a tree in brooklyn, with the question of how it should be removed. the area was evacuated for two hours as the NYPD bomb squad investigated, before deeming the object harmless.

nonetheless, miyakawa was arrested at 2am saturday morning while hanging another bag on a light post near mccarren park. on sunday, judge martin murphy accused miyakawa of reckless endangerment, the placing of false bombs, and criminal nuisance. he also ordered that miyakawa be detained for 30 days, as the artist awaits mental evaluation.

after his attorney filed a writ of habeus corpus, the court held a second hearing for takeshi miyakawa on may 23rd, where a new judge released him without bail. the artist’s court date against his initial charges, where the question of miyakawa’s mental health was considered, was held on june 21st, 2012.

in late july 2012, takeshi miyakawa’s ordeal finally came to an end with his final court date, where the judge accepted ACD (‘adjournment in contemplation of a dismissal’) and no standing charges, with the ordering only of 10 days community service as recommended by the prosecution. ‘I feel relieved that this issue has been resolved,’ miyakawa told friends following his release.

you can read full coverage about the incident on the new york times: ‘designer takeshi miyakawa returns from rikers island‘ (earlier reports viewable on NYT at ‘police arrest artist takeshi miyakawa thinking tribute was fake bomb‘).

from miyakawa’s project archive: photo of test installation last week

thank you to all readers who signed and shared the petition to free takeshi miyakawa!

petition to free takeshi miyakawa

on may 19th, 2012, artist and designer takeshi miyakawa was arrested in brooklyn while installing ‘I ♥ NY’ lamps in a local park, part of a project designed to celebrate NY design week and the tokyo-born artist’s love for new york city, where he has lived for the past 23 years.

instead, miyakawa was charged with the class D felony of reckless endangerment, placing of false bombs, and criminal nuisance. he is currently being detained for thirty days to await mental evaluation.

public safety need be protected, but so must our constitutionally ordained rights. art has the power to join people together, bring a smile to the face of a passerby. miyakawa’s ‘I ♥ NY’ lamps encourage us to rethinkour everyday objects, think sustainably, celebrate the place we live and love.

this is what we call art.

instead, the NY justice system calls this terrorism and endangerment, despite miyakawa’s clean record and international renown.

please sign if you believe that there is still the place and need for art in the world. sign to help free takeshi miyakawa. sign to help free art.

cutting the ‘I ♥ NY’ bags

assembling the boxes, necessary to prevent the plastic from overheating by the LED

assembling the LED light

left: in their brooklyn studio, takeshi miyakawa and his team construct the ‘I (heart) new york’ lamps; right: photo from the installation  

at the same time as the events of the arrest, takeshi miyakawa’s work was on show at the international cultural exhibition at ICFF (international contemporary furniture fair) at new york’s jacob javitz center.

read more about the mart and miyakawa’s work for it: new york designboom mart 2012.

takeshi miyakawa kneels with his lighting installation on show at ICFF, days before his arrest image © designboom

miyakawa and his team image © designboom

installing the piece for ICFF image © designboom

the light on show for new york design week at the jacob javitz center image © designboom

  • Difficult times, they are. Who can blame the police? Neither is the artist to be blamed. Let’s shame on our hard times…

    Vania brazil says:
  • The problem is the Judge. He should have let Takeshi out on bail instead of 30 days in jail (without conviction) for mental evaluation.

    Michael S. says:
  • Don’t arrest someone for your own inappropriate interpretation of his expression

    Virginie says:
  • Maybe there was some permit he should have gotten… so cite him for that if a citation is really necessary… but jail time for an art project that was found to be harmless?? C’mon…. really?

    Jonelle says:
  • he should have probably worked with the local authorities on this project rather than letting them find out about it the hard way, but isn’t this treatment as a terrorist more than a little excessive, especially considering his spotless reputation and the positive message the installations were conveying? What happened to human rights, the right to freedom of expression and all those other things Americans apparently hold dear to their hearts?

    petition says:
  • Fear just fucked up peoples minds and rights.
    That’s the hugest result of the terrorism menace.

    Rusty says:
  • New York City has become a police state!

    Arturo Galster says:
  • …and this is why the NYPD are not commonly known as New York’s Brightest.

    florian says:
  • The mental evaluation is in need of being reversed. The judge is obviously the one who’s overstressed in performing his duty to the citizens of the Big Apple d’-)

    Jetwax says:
  • Reading your comments makes me cringe.
    “Who can blame the police?” Everybody should blame the police!
    “Maybe there was some permit …” WTF?! What kind of world do you want to live in?
    And where is YOUR PERMIT TO BREATHE?
    “he should have probably worked with the local authorities …” You guys fucked up big time.

    The terrorists have won.

    Europe says:
  • As the term “false bomb” is undefined and authorities can and do call arbitrary items “false bomb” this law is probably unconstitutional.

    Mr. Miller says:
  • Unfortunate. Agree that jail time is too much but cannot blame nypd for the arrest… you cant go around hanging makeshift lamps form public property in parks… not safe. Even if his happened to be safe, how about replacing a broken public lamp with an identical one? Same crime, not art, wouldn’t be supported by the “permit to breathe” “police state” remarks. Cant help but think about what would happen if some kid in bed-stuy got caught by the cops expressing his artistic views by hanging lights from a public lamp…

    equal justice, know the laws, get permits.

    placing of false bombs?…

    May have just been dick cops hating on art/ the alternative art community.

    yallgonnahatemenow(KI) says:
  • With this we can end the discussion of what is art and what is not.

    The punishment seems a bit severe to say the least.

    Stuart says:
  • The only practitioner of terroristic behavior in this case is the judge,
    whos inability to understand the context is terrrifying.

    Stuart 2 says:
  • This is an outrageous and stupid miscarriage of justice.

    janet says:
  • Of course a piece like that needs to have cables and battery to operate.
    Everybody has a mobile phone these days, which also has cables and batteries.
    Mobile phones have been used to trigger bombs.
    Why not report to police everybody who has a mobile…?!

    PETITION says:
  • come on New York, this is just ridiculous.

    Debra Karash says:
  • This is a clear abuse of power. There is no doubt. I think it is unlawful. I think he should get a good lawyer and sue the hell out of the system.

    Chauncey Zalkin, what women make says:
  • Why don’t they just start arresting everyone who parks a car, carries a laptop or throws away a box or bag, since those are more commonly used as bombs than lamps! I mean seriously, what bomber with two brain cells to rub together would make a bomb that’s the most visible thing on the block?

    Michael Reust says:
  • This is an absolutely disgusting and embarrassing abuse of power,
    a display of lack of intelligent judgment.

    MARC - NY says:
  • Takeshi is released on 5/23 around 15:30 NY time!!!

    But still faces charges on 10 felony and misdemeanor counts relating to the incident and needs to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

    Visit Free Takeshi Facebook group at
    for further support!

    TTS says:
  • “the area was evacuated
    for two hours as the NYPD bomb squad investigated, before deeming the object harmless.” what is it with these paranoid Americans??

    roberto says:

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