Brooklyn Artist Used Pigeons to Run Cigars from Cuba

duke riley pigeons artist brooklyn
Artist and pigeon trainer Duke Riley

A Brooklyn artist trained carrier pigeons to fly to Havana and bring back Cuban cigars as part of a new art project, the New York Times reports. Duke Riley trained 50 birds, which he brought down to Key West and sent on the 100-mile journey; half were equipped to carry Cohibas in jerry-rigged harnesses, while the other half carried cameras that documented the trip. The resulting show, “Trading With the Enemy,” will be on display at Magnan Metz Gallery starting next month and will feature portraits of all 50 birds (not all of which made it back from the trips, which is apparently normal for racing birds), the cigar harnesses, the cigars themselves cast in resin, video footage from the pigeons’ voyages, and the loft in which he kept the birds. Two of the avian smugglers will be for sale.

When the Times described the project to the Treasury Department, a spokesperson responded, “Oooookkkkkay.” Riley is a little anxious about the legality of his actions.

He envisioned pleading his case before a judge. “Am I at fault, or is the pigeon at fault?” he mused.
“A pigeon,” [his studio manager] offered, “would look real cute in handcuffs.”

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart


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