5Pointz, a former Queens-based factory, steadily became a mural hotspot for graffiti artists from around the world after the owner, Wolkoff, had given creatives permission to use the building as a canvas for “aerosol art”. Consequently, the building was covered almost entirely in vivid pieces of artwork and tags. However, these disappeared overnight after Jerry Wolkoff had the work whitewashed in November 2013, once he decided to develop the factory into luxury apartments.
This was, unsurprisingly, a controversial move from Wolkoff, with many stating that the iconic status of the artwork should have protected it from being erased so easily and without discussion. Consequently, a number of the artists who had their work on display moved to sue the Wolkoff, with the owner then retaliating with a claim that graffiti is destined to be erased, and that’s the nature of the art form.
Well, recently the federal jury came to a conclusion that the iconic graffiti site was legally protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act (Vara), and that Wolkoff had consequently broken the law. The result of this is that Wolkoff has been ordered to pay a sum of $6.7 million to the 21 artists that took him to court.
However, what’s more significant is that this was the first time graffiti, or “aerosol art” had been given that protection under federal law, potentially meaning thousands of graffiti murals across the country could now be preserved. Good news for graffiti artists.