East Village Bodega Transformed into a Street Art Gallery
Richmond Mural Project in Virginia

The Art Law Journal Examines Street Art - Winning The Public Approval

IMG_1300Steve Schlackman, writing for the Art Law Journal, discussing the change in public perception of street art from crime to urban asset. In part he writes:

Whether graffiti is art or crime has an implication in protecting the integrity of a street artist’s work. If considered art, the creative works might be shielded under the Visual Arts Right Act (VARA). VARA protects the work of visual art, from intentional distortion, mutilation or other modification. As a crime, these works can be washed away without further consideration, as has been the fate of many.

Street artists across the country have been fighting back using the VARA argument. 5Pointz, an outdoor art exhibit space in Long Island City, New York, is considered to be the world’s premiere “graffiti Mecca.” Since 1993, with the property owner’s permission, artists have been creating unique artistic works on numerous walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory.  5pointz has now become a tourist attraction, with hundreds visiting each week.  Now, the building is supposed to be razed to make way for a luxury apartment complex.  Sixteen artists have sued to preserve the space citing VARA.  They are currently seeking a temporary injunction.

Los Angeles, often on the forefront of intellectual property issues, recently passed a new murals ordinance making street art legal if you pay for a permit, get permission from the location, and publicly post your intentions. Shepard Fairey, best known for his Obama Hope poster and his Obey campaign, has teamed up with renowned graffiti artist, Risk to create a major piece in Skid Row. Another work will be painted in the Arts District by culture-jamming contemporary artist, Ron English.


I am very happy to see that lawyers and legal bodies are examining the value of street art rather than describing it as a crime. And it is my hope that VARA can be successfully used to stop the destruction of 5 Pointz and enable the art of the street to survive and thrive.



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