In an unexpected victory of artists over the establishment, a New York City landlord owes graffiti artists over $6 million after destroying their murals. The world famous 5 Pointz building in Long Island City, Queens was covered with white paint in 2013 and the artists who dedicated their time and life to the murals were furious.
The 5-story abandoned warehouse became a safe-haven for artists who wanted to showcase their beautiful graffiti works. It was enormous and completely covered in art from some of the best graffiti artists in the world. If you took the 7 train in Long Island City, you are probably aware of this building, as the train rides right past it.
Court documents describe the building as the “largest collection of exterior aerosol art.” And after it was erased, the artists took the landlord to court in order to get some of their money back. Well, they were successful in their lawsuit and a federal judge in Brooklyn awarded $6.75 million in damages to 21 artists whose work at 5 Pointz was erased by the paint job.
The courts found that the graffiti was protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act. And once it was damaged and erased, the artists were owed money. The building’s owner, Gerald Wolkoff, was said to have “willfully” ruined the artwork and was responsible for the damages..
Judge Block, who oversaw the legal affair had this to say about the situation, “He was bent on doing it his way, and just as he ignored the artists’ rights he also ignored the many efforts the Court painstakingly made to try to have him responsively answer the questions posed to him. Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant.”
So though the artistic fixture may be destroyed and irreparably damaged, some of the artists who had their works eradicated can at least have some money for their troubles.