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News / City Life

NYC landlord forced to pay graffiti artists $6.7 million for whitewashing 5Pointz murals

NYC landlord forced to pay graffiti artists $6.7 million for whitewashing 5Pointz murals
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/iamNigelMorris

It wasn’t long ago that graffiti artists in New York City were vilified. In 1994, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani denounced the art form, saying, “The 60's are over. Graffiti is a metaphor for urban decay perhaps best shown in A Clockwork Orange.” 

But on Monday, the powers that be were singing a whole different tune when a federal judge ruled that the owner of the legendary 5Pointz graffiti complex in Queens had to pay artists a total of $6.7 million for destroying their works in 2013. According to the Times, Judge Frederick Block awarded the money to 21 artists who contributed 45 graffiti works to the space that were considered to be protected by law under the Visual Artists Rights Act. 

The complex’s owner Jerry Wolkoff destroyed the works in 2013, triggering the lawsuit in question. Before then, he had for decades allowed artists to tag the Long Island City structures, turning it into one of the city’s coolest art havens. When significant stretch of the murals at 5Pointz were whitewashed, lawyers defended the artists and called it “the world’s largest open-air aerosol museum.”

But now, Wolkoff is cutting his losses, and is building a sprawling residential building in place of 5Pointz. The whole situation is pretty symbolic for the way in which New York City as a whole has changed over the past decade. 

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