Legal Decision Just Upheld a $6.75 Million Victory for the Street Artists Whose Works Were Destroyed at the 5Pointz Graffiti Mecca

From Artnet News:

In a sweeping 32-page decision eviscerating the legal arguments of a disgruntled Queens real estate developer, a US Appeals Court affirmed the rights and monetary damages awarded to a group of graffiti artists whose works were destroyed without warning or consent in 2013.

The artists sued the developer, Gerald Wolkoff, in 2013 for violating their rights after he whitewashed their work at the famous 5Pointz graffiti art mecca in New York to make way for condos. A jury ruled in favor of the artists in November 2017, but it was up to a judge to determine the extent of the damages.

In February 2018, Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Frederick Block awarded the artists a total $6.75 million in a landmark decision. The sum included $150,000—the maximum legal penalty—for each of the 45 destroyed works at the center of the case.

The trial was a key test of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), which grants visual artists certain “moral rights” for their work. Previous VARA cases rarely made it to trial, and were instead settled privately.

But the act, which was added to copyright laws in 1990, disallows the modification of works in ways that could be considered harmful to artists’ reputations, and grants protections to artworks deemed to be of “recognized stature.”

Link to the rest at Artnet News

Photos of the art prior to destruction are at the OP.

4 thoughts on “Legal Decision Just Upheld a $6.75 Million Victory for the Street Artists Whose Works Were Destroyed at the 5Pointz Graffiti Mecca”

  1. What these news stories NEVER cover is whether the ‘art’ was contracted or true graffiti, which is what I want to know. If someone can paint walls without the owner’s permission and then the owner be punished for removing it, that’s important weakening of property rights.

  2. The OP mentions several times that the developer worked with the artists and had a curator who chose the art. It seems fairly clear that the painting was done with the owner’s permission and encouragement. Apparently, the owner later changed his mind. Based on this, I think if I decided to invite someone to “decorate” a building I owned, I would be careful to get my right to obliterate the “art” in writing.

    Something similar happens when you are not allowed to destroy or rebuild a historic building that you own.

  3. rereads the OP. so it does, at least once, down at the bottom. I’d missed it before. There have been other articles about similar ruckuses that don’t mention it. Including a local one, where I read several articles covering it, where the reporter never even brought it up the ownership of the art question. (Although one did mention the lead artist working with other artists, which implies at least organization and probably agreement from the property owner.)

    Pretty clearly, if an owner is going to allow such, the owner had better make it work for hire with ALL rights, including right to obliterate specified in the contract.

  4. Rent out the wall space for commercial signs for fixed periods. Lots of old buildings have huge ads painted on the sides of buildings. Let the artists paint on the sides of art museums.

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