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At Brooklyn Public Library gala honoring Jay-Z, co-chairs include Bruce Ratner (husband of library CEO) + Joe & Clara Wu Tsai. "Book of HOV" exhibit extended, now with a Lexus on the lawn.

Photos: Norman Oder
Well, now. 

The Brooklyn Public Library, likely executing a plan long contemplated, has extended The Book of HOV, the Roc Nation-produced "tribute" to company founder Jay-Z, to Dec. 4, which just happens to be Jay's birthday. 

And Monday, the Central Library will again--as with a summer shindig previewing the exhibit, per Hell Gate-- close early, for the library annual gala, likely to reap more in donations than previous efforts.

After all, they're honoring Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and his mother Gloria Carter, and the significant list of supporters--including corporate names like Amazon, Goldman Sachs and Google--suggests some deep pockets.

Then again, the library has already compromised itself by hosting, with no editorial control, an exhibit that mythologizes Jay-Z, and two weeks ago even allowed a Lexus used in a famed video--another Jay-Z "artifact"--to be mounted on its lawn, complete with its own security guard.

The library's justification is surely the flood of new visitors the exhibition has brought--though it's unclear how many will turn into library users--and the (tax-deductible, of course) donations it will deliver. 

But it's a good bet that Jay-Z and Roc Nation--who after all, would have had to pay big money for a centrally located space to house everything from Jay's platinum records to his Armand de Brignac bottles to his magazine covers--come out the winner.

It's all worth it?

Note that Gothamist's coverage yesterday, Despite criticism, the Jay-Z exhibition at Brooklyn Public Library gets an 'Encore', acknowledges Hyperallergic's Ted Hamm called it “a shrine to a billionaire’s glamorous life,” but gets an approving quote from "library security guard" Darnell King: "It's amazing to me because I saw his journey from being a rapper to a businessman."

Note that the photo shows King in the uniform of the private security hired by Roc Nation, not the library, so he's essentially an employee of the show. One reader commented on the article:
As an exhibit the majesty of the library space does most of the heavy lifting. I went through the entire exhibit but didn't really learn anything new about the man himself. It's more monument to Jay Z than exhibit--it really only works if you're already a fan (and it does seem to be working).
Unmentioned: Adlan Jackson's slam in Hell Gate, noting that " Brooklyn Public Library's exhibition glorifies Jay-Z and advertises his products—but we’re being told it’s for the people."

Partial closure Monday

As stated on the Brooklyn Public Library's web site, "In preparation for a special event, The Book of HOV exhibit will be closed on Monday, October 2. Central Library will close early that day at 3 pm."

The page for the Central Library is more explicit: it will close Monday at 3 pm for the annual gala, while the main entrance will be closed both Sunday and Monday, diverting library-goers to the side entrances on Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue.

About the gala

Along with Desiree Perez, CEO of Roc Nation, the gala chairs are Linda E. Johnson & Bruce C. Ratner and Joe & Clara Wu Tsai.

Note that, in very helpful synergy, Brooklyn Public Library CEO Johnson is married to retired developer Ratner, who built the Barclays Center, the model of which sits like a piece of sculpture in the library lobby, sans context. Jay-Z opened the arena with eight concerts in September 2012.

As for the Tsais, who own the Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty, and the Barclays Center operating company, they are eager contributors to the borough's (and city's) philanthropy, even if they don't necessarily make New York their prime residence.

Might they claim that a contribution to the Brooklyn Public Library counts as an expenditure of their foundation's Social Justice Fund, claimed to spend $5 million a year?

(The invite refers to Gloria Carter as Hon. Dr. Gloria Carter. Her honorary degree, in human letters, is from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, recognizing her stewardship of the Shawn Carter Foundation, which "helps young individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning.")

A first gift

"BPL gratefully acknowledges an historic $1.5M gift from the Shawn Carter Foundation in partnership with Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism and Michael Rubin," the invite says.

That syntax is tricky. Though Jay-Z's foundation is named first, it's a good bet that New England Patriots owner Kraft--who might have a little more reason to boost his reputation--put up a much larger share. 

As for Rubin, presumably the founder of the sports memorabilia company Fanatics, who knows how much he gave? Rubin was unmentioned in the initial 7/21/23 press release from the Shawn Carter Foundation, which stated:
As part of the collaboration, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) will receive $1.5 million to bolster the library's overall operations and support its Books Unbanned initiative, a nationwide campaign dedicated to providing young people with free access to books without restrictions.

Where's Lexus?

Curiously enough, there's no sponsorship (yet?) from Lexus, but two weeks ago, the library got a rather unusual addition to the "ephemera" associated with Jay-Z's career: a white Lexus occupying a slightly-elevated stage on the Eastern Parkway side of the building.

(Why wasn't it installed with the exhibit in July? Did they have to extract get the vehicle from storage? Perhaps even the library, which accepted an exhibit produced by a private company rather than exercised any curatorial control, knew it was crass.)

A sign says "Jay-Z's Lexus GS300," with this credit: "This Book of HOV moment brought to you by LEXUS." Another way of putting it is that Roc Nation got the library to put a freaking automobile on its lawn.

The 9/14/23 press release from Roc Nation, "Roc Nation and Lexus Partner for New Installation at The Book Of HOV Exhibit," states:

Roc Nation and Lexus proudly announce the addition of a 1993 Lexus GS 300 at The Book Of HOV, an immersive exhibit at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Location. The iconic Lexus was first featured in JAY-Z’s “Dead Presidents” visual [sic], and then in the lyrics of “Can I Live” and the #1 hit, “Empire State Of Mind.” Situated alongside the Central Library on Eastern Parkway, the Lexus is the first of artifacts that will be added to The Book Of HOV.

The press release notes that the library has "hosted over 255,000 visitors, close to quadruple the number over the same time in 2022 and cards sign ups have more than doubled with over 21,000 new accounts created in association with the limited edition JAY-Z cards." 

(So, that's about 186,000 new visitors, with about 11% of them--they must be New York residents--signing up for cards.)

The press release does not quote the library but rather Roc Nation's Perez and a Lexus spokesperson, helpfully adding:

The inclusion of Carter’s 1993 Lexus GS 300 in the iconic “Dead Presidents” visual [sic] further solidified the brand’s place in culture. As one of the most mentioned automobile makers in hip-hop, Lexus is synonymous with the lifestyle that defined an era.

Educational opportunity?

Note: there's nothing in the online exhibit regarding Lexus, nor is there explanation outside beyond that terse sign. 

Remember, this is less an educational exhibition than a tribute, so there's little effort to reach out to people for whom the song/video "Dead Presidents"--a reference to cash money--is not a talisman.

Note, the "Hovstorian" aintnojigga helpfully explains on Instagram how Jay customized the Lexus with audio and video players:

Back in the ‘90s Jay and his hustling partners (who worked for both legal and illegal means) had an affinity for Lexus motor vehicles, and many caravan trips were made up and down the I-95 moving merchandise. As soon as Jay and his crew had a little money, they were of course eager to show it to the world. By choosing the GS 300 they were able to conform to the cultural rule of flyness, but could also stay low when it came to law enforcement targeting the latest Benzes and BMWs being driven in Brooklyn. As Jaÿ has done throughout his life and career, in Decoded he wrote how plays such as this were “elevating his game, not by throwing on a bigger chain, but by showing more refined, and even slightly obscure, taste.”
...Reasonable Doubt was stacked with Lexus references, so it was only right for the album’s 10th Anniversary concert in 2006 that Jay cruised on stage in an off-white Lexus, soundtracked by the orchestra playing “Regrets.
Get your tickets?

Note: Individual tickets to the gala, for $1,000 are sold out, as are $15,000 Benefactor packages for eight guests.

Available are Lead Sponsor ($100,000), Principal Sponsor ($50,000 guests), and Visionary Sponsor ($25,000), all of which offer ten tickets and various levels of recognition, plus Contributor ($10,000, four tickets) and Supporter ($5,000, two tickets).