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Brooklyn Street Art

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Tell It to The Judge ; Graffiti Artists Win in 5 Pointz Case

Posted on February 13, 2018

In a ruling that many graffiti and Street Artists interpret as a validation of their artwork and which may spawn further legal claims by artists in the future, Brooklyn Judge Frederic Block, a United States Federal Judge for the Eastern District of New York, awarded $6.7 million in damages to a group of 21 artists in the high profile case of the former graffiti holy place in Queens called 5 Pointz.

Under the leadership of artist and organizer Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen, also a plantiff, the award is in response to a suit that cried foul on the overnight destruction of multiple artworks on building walls without consultation or notification of the artists.

5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Citing provisions of the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act that grants artists certain “moral” rights, the artists claimed that their artworks on the 5 Pointz compound that was owned by real estate developer Jerry Wykoff were protected and should be afforded certain rights and considerations.

Arts and intellectual property lawyers and judges will now be examining the implications of the ruling and citing it as an example in arguments about art created on walls legally and possibly those created illegally as well. In a city that prides itself as being a birthplace of graffiti and Street Art, many artists and wall owners must ask themselves if there will need to be an additional layer of agreement before an aerosol can is held aloft.

5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For today the plaintiffs will celebrate the win and derive a sense of validation for their works at the compound that hosted an organic evolution of works by local, national, and international graffiti and Street Artist for nearly two decades under tacit or explicit agreement with the owner.

“I am happy to see my art form recognized as true art,” says Mr. Cohen in an article from Hyperallergic today, and ultimately that is the message that the graffiti writers and Street Artists will take from the story. Others will argue that this is gentrification issue of developers profiting from and then dismissing the artists who bring attractive buyers to a neighborhood. Now that a dollar value has been attached, a certain audience will also begin to again consider the intrinsic value of those artworks in the streets that they dismissed as pure vandalism with little other merit.

5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Of the nearly 1,000 comments posted yesterday on our initial Facebook post about the decision, it is evident that many people still see this kind of art primarily as illegal vandalism and opine that a ruling like this is only adding credibility to criminal behavior. In that argument it is helpful to remember that these artists all had permission to paint.

Undoubtedly additional legacies of the ruling will play out in coming months and years. For the moment, it looks like the artists won this time, which is a seeming rarity during a time when technology has created a nearly unmitigated “Wild West” landscape of rights and responsibilities when it comes to aesthetic expression.


Related stories:

Judge Awards Graffiti Artists $6.7M After 5Pointz Destroyed

Judge Rules Developer Must Pay 5Pointz Graffiti Artists $6.7M

A judge is poised to decide whether graffiti can be protected by law

Looking at 5Pointz Now, Extolling a Graffiti Holy Place

5Pointz. Meres. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Onur . Semor . Wes21 . Kkade . 5Pointz, Queens. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Esteban Del Valle. 5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Zeso . Meres. 5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kram. 5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

5Pointz. Queens.  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

 

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