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The Free Store, located in the heart of New York's financial district, is free and it is also an art project that has become a social experiment. Started by two artists, with a grant from the September 11 fund, it is a statement on greed and need and the spirit of the times.
Planned before the recession, it has struck a chord with the visitors that have been coming non-stop since its opening. Everything is tagged "I'm free", and there are shirts, books, shoes and knick-knacks on the shelves at no cost.
People are free to take whatever they like, with the proviso that they felt they "needed it." Each transaction is noted and customers are given a receipt, as they would in any shop.
"We were interested in ideas around what's really free, what do people really need, what do you have that you can share with others?" Anna Stein, one of the artists, says.
"Almost everybody has bartered with us - they brought something in and took something they thought was equal in value." The proprietors were afraid that they would run out of things to "sell" but instead people are "bringing in bagfuls of lovely things."
New York is a city overcome with resentment now, from the banks to Bernie Madoff, people are finding that many things that they aspired to are made of tinsel. But there is no mob mentality here, grabbing at the free goods. Says Athena Robles:" I think when you're alone and it's your own private thoughts, there's more self-consciousness. You get a little more 'I want that', and you actually have to tell us that you want that. It's not so easy to take things." Guardian