Is graffiti art? One court in Brooklyn has decided yes, ruling for spray paint over New York real estate.
On Monday, a judge ruled that a real estate developer who whitewashed dozens of graffiti murals at the 5Pointz complex in Queens violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, "which has been used to protect public art of 'recognized stature' created on someone's else property," according to the New York Times.
Jerry Wolkoff purchased the 200,000-square-foot former factory building in the 1970s for $1 million, according to NBC. Graffiti artists approached him the 1990s, asking if they could display their art on the vacant five-story building. Wolkoff agreed.
5Pointz artist Jonathan Cohen started curating the space in 2002. "I said, '... Let me start this place up, let me have a wall where no ego is involved, and artists could come paint.' Favoritism doesn't really float," he told NPR in 2013. "If you do a good job and your piece comes out amazing, it could last longer. If you don't, then it goes."
In Nov. 2013, Wolkoff decided to demolish the site and build new stores and apartments. By then, 5Pointz was loved and known by New Yorkers and graffiti artists worldwide alike.
The developer contracted painters to whitewash the decades of graffiti away under the cover of night. He told WNYC that he did so to avoid conflict. "It's like a Band-Aid, I just wanted to take one rip off in one time. I felt it was best for them and I," Wolkoff said. "I had tears in my eyes when I painted this morning."
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