Before and After Photographs of 5Pointz Mural Site Show a Bleak Transformation
See how a historic monument to graffiti art was unrecognizably transformed into a luxury high rise with the personality of a sad hotel lobby by Valentina Di Liscia
Photographs of the recently completed luxury development at the former site of the 5Pointz graffiti murals in Long Island City, Queens, show how a local monument to graffiti art has been unrecognizably transformed. The updated style of the drab, gray residential behemoth is increasingly plaguing neighborhoods across New York City.
In November 2013, two decades’ worth of elaborate murals by such legendary street artists as Blade and Lady Pink were illegally whitewashed overnight at the request of developer Jerry Wolkoff of G&M Realty. Nine of the artists sued Wolkoff for failing to give notice and preventing them from documenting or preserving their work prior to the building’s demolition. In 2018, a federal court ruled that Wolkoff violated the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) and awarded $6.7 million in damages to 21 artists at the site in a precedent-setting decision to protect aerosol art.
The high-rise residential towers at 22-44 Jackson Avenue feature more than 1,100 apartments ranging in price from about $2,500 to over $6,000 a month, excluding prime penthouses, and 337 “affordable” housing units — although only households making at least $63,000 are eligible to apply for them, according to Patch.
The development’s website boasts “near-countless amenities,” including an indoor pool and basketball court, a gaming room, a co-working space, and a sky lounge that will “allow you to create the life of your dreams.” These various rooms are adorned by monotonous rows of paintings of the ubiquitous “hotel lobby” genre and a bland selection of mid-century-meh furniture. Fortunately, the condos’ planners seem to have scrapped their tacky idea of filling the space with graffiti-inspired artwork in a paltry homage to the 5Pointz artists whose work it destroyed.
The Times of Israel sheds light on an international travesty. Artist neighborhoods filled with street art are being over run by developers and destroyed. One such neighborhood is the Florentin in Tel Aviv. Read more here --
The hub of Tel Aviv’s street art scene remains Florentin. Operators regularly offer guided street art tours for foreigners and Israelis alike to view the art spread throughout the neighborhood. Abarbanel Street and its surrounding industrial zone of wood and metal workshops — as well as art galleries — are the street art epicenter.
But with Florentin’s ongoing, fast-paced gentrification, the art on its streets is dwindling. In several parts of the neighborhood, in fact, street art was recently painted over by the municipality. Due to soaring real estate prices, rival developers are battling over the land in their haste to build residential housing. And as they do this, they are stripping away the neighborhood’s soul, driving real estate prices even higher, while offering little to the public — apart from more living quarters in an overcrowded section of a city that is in dire need of cultural spaces.
“Street Art Tel Aviv” — the first in our series of books documenting Tel Aviv’s urban art scene — captures the streets of the city when they still largely belonged to us.
Atlas Obscura reports the end of a stretch of old highway in Delaware that over the years has become decorated with graffiti.
A trio of camera-toting 20-somethings stumble out of a Delaware-plated Honda Civic onto the shoulder of a rural Pennsylvania highway. It’s summer 2020, and amid the pandemic, they’ve road-tripped nearly three hours up circuitous, mountain roads to reach their off-the-grid destination: the notorious, smoldering, coal-country ghost town of Centralia. They’ve come to this remote corner of Columbia County to take in one sight in particular, the vast spray-painted surface a mile of the former Route 61, commonly known as “Graffiti Highway.”
But, to their surprise, the promised anarchic, visual feast just beyond the “No Trespassing” signs is gone. As of early April 2020, the colorful art, scrawled wisdom, and periodic vulgarity of the highway was officially laid to rest by the property’s current owners, Pagnotti Enterprises, on the grounds that one person’s postapocalyptic wonderland is another entity’s liability. The road’s messages—from “You fell in love with my flower but not my roots,” to “Out of nothing came everything,” to “OBEY … if you want to”—now rest beneath pyramids of dirt.
Formally closed in 1993 due to a decades-long mine fire simmering beneath its surface, this abandoned 0.74-mile stretch of road had achieved cult status in the first decade of the 2000s. After years of disuse, it took on new life as an artistic commons adorned with everything from pineapple-carapaced turtles to less-than-family-friendly fare, often of the male anatomical variety. By 2017, it was anecdotally cited by some locals as the sixth-most-visited attraction in the state. Its warped surface was a magnet not just for taggers, but also for horror fans and gamers in search of one of the inspirations behind Silent Hill (the 2006 movie based on the video game), mountain bikers, skaters, ATV enthusiasts, photographers, local party people, ghost hunters, and the generally curious.
Around the Graffiti Highway, a new community sprang up, one born of—yet completely separate from and sometimes opposed by—the one that preceded it. As Johnson notes, it became a space where people chose to assert, through their tags, that “I was here, I can be here, I’m a part of this.” With interest fueled by Facebook groups, the Silent Hill franchise (Roger Avary, one of the screenwriters behind the film adaptation of the horror game, cites Centralia as an atmospheric muse), and cable television features, it morphed into Centralia 2.0. The Graffiti Highway became Centralia’s new public square, offering visitors a barrage of constantly evolving, often droll, visual novelty.
As the highway’s popularity grew, the remaining locals called for increased patrols and citations. Some reported that the graffiti was creeping away from the highway and into neighboring areas, including cemeteries. Planned events, including a Barbie Power Wheels race that drew hundreds of RSVPs in February 2017, prompted enforced closures. Still, other observers—including Dave DeKok, author of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire—point out that accidents on the site were few and far between. On April 8, DeKok told a local news outlet, “It was just a lot of people coming together. It was a lot of fun and it wasn’t hurting anyone.”
During the week of April 6, a three-day burial process took place. A convoy of 400 dump trucks descended on the area, delivering between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of dirt. One by one, their beds were lifted and tailgates opened. Cascades of dirt piled onto the colorful marks below.
The Graffiti Highway’s end has not gone unmourned or uncontested: several change.org petitions have called on officials and business leaders to reverse the burial. At press time, one appeal to Governor Tom Wolf had nearly reached its goal of 35,000 signatures. Impassioned, wistful remembrances, forlorn musings, and heartfelt pleas fill the comments. People refer to it as “one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania,” a “place of free expression, creativity and adventure.” One person declares its destruction, “a disservice to the beauty of human art juxtaposed in nature.”
Twenty-one graffiti artists are due $6.7 million under a court judgment upheld Thursday against a developer who destroyed their works at the famed 5Pointz art mecca in Queens. The artists sued developer Gerald Wolkoff, taking their case to an unprecedented trial arguing their work at the old Long Island City factory was work of “recognized stature” protected by the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, a federal law that took effect in 1990.
Touted as a street art instagrammable wall in the Dubai-on-the-Hudson Hudson Yards Mall, this pathetic effort at cred leaves me cold. First they gentrify a neighborhood and chase all of the street artists out and then they construct a do-it-yourself "graf-wall" nicely situated among luxury retailers. Oh really?
In my opinion, a better, more authentic wall would be similar to the gum wall in Seattle. Now that is art!
As reported in Hyperallergic: After buying it at auction, the American street artist says he will paint the Banksy mural white as a protest against the buying and selling of street art.
American street artist Ron English has announced his plans to stage a modern take on Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning Drawing“ by expunging a famous Banksy mural from existence. English says the controversial decision represents a protest against the art market’s continued monetization of street art.
“We’re tired of people stealing our stuff off the streets and reselling it so I’m just going to buy everything I can get my hands on and whitewash it,” English told the United Kingdom’s Press Association, adding, “I’m going to paint over it and just include it in one of the walls in my house.”
Like Banksy, English is known for the strong political messages of his street art, which explores brand imagery and advertising. The artist has been arrested multiple times, preferring to use public spaces and billboards as his canvas.
English’s target is Banksy’s “Slave Labour (Bunting Boy)” (2012), which he recently acquired for $730,000 at Juliens Auctions in Los Angeles. The work depicts a young child crouched over a sewing machine as he produces Union Jack bunting. It was a protest against the controversial use of sweatshops to manufacture memorabilia for the Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics in 2012. And while “Slave Labour” was first painted on the outside wall of a bargain shop in north London, it was mysteriously removed months later before resurfacing at an auction in Miami in February 2013. It was subsequently removed from auction after considerable appeals by residents of its hometown London suburb, Wood Green. Regardless, the mural was eventually sold at auction in the UK, fetching a price of $1.2 million at Bankrobber London.
“The painting was created as a piece of social commentary. It was transformed into a commodity without regards to the original message,” English told Hyperallergic. “I knew that if I bought the painting it would shine new light on the art and the image hopefully putting the issue of child labor back into the public dialog. If I whitewash it, the piece becomes the new ‘Erased de Kooning’ by Rauschenberg. And it gains hype and status as a commodity in the art world, which would allow me to resell it at a profit and use the profits for children’s charities, furthering the original intent.”
Throughout his career, Banksy has tried to dissuade people from capitalizing on his art. In 2008, after revealing that a large body of work attributed to him was in fact fake, he pleaded with his fans: “Graffiti art has a hard enough life as it is — with council workers wanting to remove it and kids wanting to draw mustaches on it, before you add hedgefund managers wanting to chop it out and hang it over the fireplace.”
According to the Press Association, English mentioned that his purchase and eventual destruction of the mural was “for my good pal Banksy.” However, the artist does plan to eventually sell the piece for a million dollars. “I’m crazy but I’m not stupid,” he added in a comment to the publication.
The artist’s decision to cash-in on “damaged” art is well-informed. The buyer of Banksy’s self-destructed painting ultimately decided to keep it as her “own piece of art history.” After all, some critics estimate that the destroyed artwork is now worth double its original estimate.
This week in art news: a federal judge upheld his prior ruling in favor of the 5Pointz artists.
Judge Frederic Block rejected a post-trial motion by property developer Jerry Wolkoff to dismiss his prior court ruling compensating the artists of 5Pointz for the whitewashing of their artwork in October 2014. In his ruling last February, the federal judge ordered that the artists be paid $6.75 million in damages.
Congratulations #5Pointz artists and #meresone !!!!!
In what was to me one of the biggest news events of the year, it was announced that the lawsuit against 5Pointz developer and art destroyer Wolkoff has been decided in favor of the artists in the amount of $6.7 million. It is, in my opinion, justice served, but a bit of a pyric victory since the building and the art have been destroyed. And destroyed at a time when other cities around the globe creating street art and urban art museums.
In a conversation I had with meresone, the CEO of 5Pointz, a few years ago, he spoke of making 5Pointz a street art museum. That dream is now shattered. 5Pointz was a special and magical place that would be very difficult to recreate. So the granting of $6.7 million is okay, but the true cost is much greater.
And let's not forget that Wolkoff is naming his new glass towers that are build on the grave of the graffiti mecca 5Pointz. How is that for nerve?
Finally some good news from all of the bad concerning graffiti mecca 5 Pointz. After a trial that, using the VARA law that art cannot be destroyed without 90 days notice, a jury in Brooklyn came back with a guilty verdict that the destruction of the aerosol art was illegal.
The question of whether graffiti should be considered art was the central issue in the 3-week trial concerning the 5Pointz complex in Queens, which ended on Tuesday when a jury found that a New York City real estate developer broke the law when he tore down the complex, The New York Times reported. With the demolition of the building, 49 vivid graffiti murals spray-painted on the complex’s walls were gone.
Though the judge must provide his final verdict, the finding by the jury of Brooklyn’s Federal District Court will serve as a recommendation for the presiding Judge Frederic Block.
The complex in Long Island City became an aesthetic wonder and an unconventional tourist destination in its nearly 20 years. It was a unique collaboration between developer Jerry Wolkoff and a crew of graffiti artists, and was defended by the crew’s lawyers as “the world’s largest open-air aerosol museum.” However, the graffiti’s creation was always based on the fact that Wolkoff planned to tear down the complex in favor of luxury apartment buildings, a move he made in 2014 which began the conflict.
When the graffiti artists caught word of 5Pointz’s demolition, they filed suit against Wolkoff, citing a violation of the Visual Arts Rights Act, a 1990 law concerning an artist’s moral rights, which allows artists of works of “recognized stature” to prohibit the destruction of their art.
The graffiti crew’s lawyer, Eric Baum, stated that Wolkoff failed to give them a 90-day warning before he hired workers one night to whitewash the building.
Though Wolkoff’s lawyer, David Ebert, argued that the 21 artists involved had erased more graffiti themselves by constantly changing their art, with nearly 11,000 murals coming and going over the years, the jury ultimately sided with the artists.
Both Ebert and Baum agreed that Block would only take the jury’s ruling as a recommendation. The judge has requested the two submit court papers within the next few weeks regarding the verdict’s validity. Following this, he will reach a verdict which may force Wolkoff to pay damages to the graffiti artists.