Graffiti artists win $6.7 million lawsuit after their work is buffed

A picture of 5Pointz taken two years before it was destroyed.
A picture of 5Pointz taken two years before it was destroyed. Photo credit: Getty

A group of artists have been awarded US$6.7 million (NZ $9.2 million) in damages after their graffiti at an iconic New York site was painted over without warning.

The graffiti, on the side of an iconic Long Island building known as 5Pointz, has been celebrated and enjoyed by New Yorkers and people from all over the world for decades.

But the owner of the building decided to pull down the building to make way for a new apartment block, and in November 2013 they painted over the artworks without giving any warning to the artists.

In a decision announced on Tuesday, Judge Frederic Block slammed developer Gerald Wolkoff for failing to warn the artists and failing to obtain a permit to destroy the works.

"If not for Wolkoff's insolence, these damages would not have been assessed. If he did not destroy 5Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully," the Judge said according to artnet News.

"Since 5Pointz was a prominent tourist attraction, the public would undoubtedly have thronged to say its goodbyes during those 10 months and gaze at the formidable works of aerosol art for the last time. It would have been a wonderful tribute for the artists that they richly deserved."

In the lawsuit, the artists claimed their graffiti should be protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) as work of "recognised stature" and of historic importance, and the judge agreed.

Eric Baum, a lawyer for the artists, told the New York Times the ruling is a "a victory not only for the artists in this case, but for artists all around the country."

He said the 5Pointz win will be a legacy for future generations of artists.


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