BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The demolition of Long Island City’s 5 Pointz building, which was adorned with graffiti by artists from across the five boroughs, was deemed by a jury in Brooklyn this week to have been illegal.
Judge Frederic Block will soon issue a final decision and determine whether the site’s developer should be forced to reimburse 21 artists whose work he destroyed.
The artists filed a lawsuit in 2013 against developers Jerry and David Wolkoff, who whitewashed the complex building overnight without warning and violated an informal agreement that had existed between the Wolkoffs and artists for approximately 20 years.
Since the vast majority of the graffiti on the buildings was created on the spot, the artists argued that they were not given enough notice to rescue their pieces and so they were lost forever. According to the lawsuit, the artists are stating that the demolition of the art was in violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act.
According to the law, the author of a work of visual art has the right to claim authorship of his or her work and the right to “prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation or other modification of that work that would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation, and any intentional distortion, mutilation or modification of that work is a violation of that right and to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional grossly negligent destruction of that work is a violation of that right.”
During the trial, the jury was asked whether the Wolkoffs distorted, mutilated or modified the works in a way that was damaging to the artists’ reputations and whether the Wolkoffs destroyed works of art that had obtained recognized statures. The jury unanimously sided with the artists.
“The white washing of the art by Jerry Wolkoff was wrong and an act of vandalism,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “I’m pleased that his destruction of the artwork has been brought to light further by this verdict.”
The lawyers for the artists and developers have 30 days to submit their final arguments to Block before he renders a verdict.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.