The famous graffiti murals that adorned the 5Pointz complex in Queens, New York are no longer there after a New York City real estate developer tore the building down in 2014. But now, a jury claims that developer illegally destroyed the artwork. According to a report from the New York Times, the jury finding will serve as a recommendation for the judge who presides over the case when he makes his final verdict.
Following the buildings demise in 2014, the artists behind the graffiti filed a suit against developer Jerry Wolkoff, accusing him of violating the Visual Artists Rights Act, which is used to protect public art on someone else’s property. Eric Baum, the lawyer for the artists, claimed Wolkoff failed to give the artists the proper 90-day notice before destroying the art work.
“The jury sided strongly with the rights of the artists,” said Baum. “This is a clear message from the people that the whitewashing of the buildings by its owner was a clear and willful act.”
As for the developer, his lawyer agued that the Visual Artists Rights Act was irrelevant in the case because it protects art, not his clients building. The attorney also claimed that the 21 artists who filed the suit knew for years the building would eventually be demolished.
The 5Pointz complex stood in Long Island City and was originally a collaboration between Wolkoff and the artists. The complex became a tourist destination and was labeled the “world’s largest open-air aerosol can museum” by the artist’s lawyer.
In the coming weeks, Judge Frederic Block will look over court papers from both parties before delivering his decision. Should the judge find Wolkoff guilty, he will have to pay the artists damages.
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