Photo: Vincentguerault (Getty)
This one right here is quite the doozy, folks.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in Brooklyn actually awarded a judgement of $6.7 million to 21 graffiti artists whose works were destroyed in 2013 by a man named Jerry Wolkoff, a real estate developer who actually owned the building named 5Pointz in Queens.
According to the judge, Wolkoff broke the law when he painted over “dozens of swirling murals” at the building, destroying what a lawyer for the artists called “the world’s largest open-air aerosol museum.” OK then…
A federal judge granted a $6.7 million judgment to graffiti artists whose works were erased from the 5Pointz complex in Queens https://t.co/9kmuVolVDt
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 13, 2018
The jury also found that Wolkoff violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, or V.A.R.A, a “law used to protect public art of recognized stature” created on someone’s else property.
In an odd legal twist, the judge at that trial, Frederic Block, altered the verdict at the 11th hour to make it merely a recommendation. But on Monday, Judge Block upheld the jury’s decision, and his ruling awarded the artists the maximum damages possible, saying that 45 of the dozens of ruined murals had enough artistic stature to merit being protected. The jury had found that only 36 of the works should be guarded under V.A.R.A.
From the start, the 5Pointz case had pitted two of New York City’s most prominent sectors against each other: the art world and the real estate business. Judge Block’s ruling — and the size of the judgment he awarded — was a decisive victory for the former, said Dean Nicyper, a partner who specializes in art law at the firm Withers Bergman.
“There have been other instances where graffiti artists have been recognized as deserving protection,” Mr. Nicyper said, adding that courts have ruled that clothing designers who cribbed ideas from graffiti artists were liable for intellectual theft. But the 5Pointz case, he said, was the first time that graffiti and graffiti artists were protected under V.A.R.A.
New York is filled with a lot of great artwork and graffiti, but there are plenty of garbage drawings on public property, too, so it baffles me that a dude actually has to pay millions of dollars for painting a building he owns, but hey, that’s America for you.
In other news, something tells me those artists won’t ever see a dime of that cash.