5 Pointz has been a landmark for graffiti mecca and has been largely discussed for the past few years. Starting several yrs ago on Aug 21, 2013 the New York City Planning Commission unanimously voted to approve plans to build condos on the property. Because art onsite was less than 30 years old, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a landmark status nomination by the artists.
Two months later, on the night of November 19th, the exterior of 5 Pointz was whitewashed suddenly overnight. The next day, a ruling by a federal judge stated that the whitewashing could result in the Wolkoff family having to pay damages to 5 Pointz artists.
Fast forward to this past week when a Brooklyn federal jury ruled favorably this on Tuesday, for several artists in the dispute over 5 Pointz, an art mecca for many graffiti artists which was recently “whitewashed” to make way for a graffiti inspire rental building.
Developer and owner of the site, Jerry Wolkoff, was sued by 21 of the artists who state that their work, which included 49 pieces that were legally protected works. The attorney for the artists, state that every artist was awarded damages, though it may not potentially be per each piece on site.
Eric Baum, the attorney representing the artists states that “This is a clear message from the people that the whitewash of the building by its owner Gerald Wolkoff was a cruel and willful act.”
Though the jury ruled favorably, Judge Frederic Block will make the final ruling to the case to what could turn out be a landmark case for future disputes between artists and property owners.
The artists sued under the Visual Artists Rights Act, a 1990 law that protects art work of “recognized stature.” The act has not been tested with a jury previously, and until final ruling from the judge comes in, everyone is unsure how this can all end. The trial, which began about a month ago, will be seen as a vital and landmark case since it would decide the fate of graffiti and whether it could attain federally protected art status.
The artists have argued that the art put in place is highly known and essentially put 5 Pointz on the map, changing the dynamic of the neighborhood. After the neighborhood improved, along with higher property values, Wolkoff “senseless[ly] and malicious[ly]” whitewashed the site to take advantage of the site to turn it into a graffiti inspired upscale condo and office building.
However, Wolkoff has argued that the site was temporarily and that the artists knew that their art would not be permanent and that they took no action to preserve their works of art.