5Pointz Graffiti Artists Awarded $6.7M After Artwork Destroyed

Justice has finally been served for the artists responsible for New York's landmark 5Pointz graffiti art mecca. After an exhausting string of legal dilemmas, the team of 21 graffiti artists have been award $6.7 million for their destroyed works of art. 

For a decade,Long Island developer Jerry Wolkoff allowed aerosol art to take place on the property. But back in 2013,  Wolkoff had the expansive mural art space whitewashed without warning– leaving the artists no time or opportunity to bid their work farewell. He later had the building completely demolished.

Wolkoff made the drastic decision after by allured by making money opportunities from turning the graffiti space into luxury condos. He started development on the 40-story condominiums project in 2015. Almost mockingly, the condos will apparently feature graffiti implements in the interior design. 

In November of 2017 twenty-one artists sued the owner of the Long Island City, Queens property based on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. The federal law allows artists "to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work"

After Federal Judge Frederic Block gave his verdict this week, he acknowledged how Wolkoff showed no remorse for the demolished work, explaining his decision of the steep $6.7 million fee. Block explained he would not have awarded so much in damages if the owner had waited for the proper permits and demolished the art 10 months later than he did. Wolkoff tells PIX11 News he plans to appeal the ruling.

"Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant. He was given multiple opportunities to admit the whitewashing was a mistake, show remorse, or suggest he would do things differently if he had another chance," Block told PIX11 News.

"Wolkoff could care less. The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened. The mutilated works were visible by millions of people on the passing 7 train."

In its heyday, 5Pointz was a hugely admirable landmark for the Queens community and often garnered tourists to the area. It's also said the community's crime rates dropped with the presence of 5Pointz, which in many ways was a form of pride for the community. 

If this goes to show us anything, it's that messing with the community and its art is a bad idea. Defacing a wall can now be seen on the flipside, as whitewashing has officially been deemed problematic. With the changing of times proving the value of urban art on a large scale, this verdict only goes to show us just how far so-called "low brow art" has come.