5Pointz graffiti artists awarded $6.75M by judge after work was destroyed

A federal judge awarded $6.75 million to graffiti artists who sued the owner of the 5Pointz warehouse when their work on the Long Island City buildings was slated to be destroyed during condo construction.

U.S. District Judge Frederic Block decided Monday that the 21 aerosol artists were entitled to the maximum statutory damages for 45 ruined works of art.

His decision comes after an advisory jury found that Gerald Wolkoff, who owned the property, violated the artists’ rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act.

Wolkoff’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than four years ago, the artists filed a lawsuit against Wolkoff and four of his real estate entities seeking to prevent the planned demolition of the warehouse buildings, according to the court decision.

On Nov. 12, 2013, the court issued an order saying a written opinion would be promptly issued. Wolkoff did not wait for further guidance, which was handed down eight days later, but whitewashed the walls.

The court weighed the artists’ rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act and property owners’ rights, ultimately deciding Wolkoff could tear down what had become the largest collection of exterior aerosol art in the U.S., but this could expose him to monetary damages if the artwork was deemed to be of “recognized stature” under the Visual Artists Rights Act.

In the ensuing years, the warehouse has been demolished and two residential towers are currently underway.

A three-week trial recently concluded with an advisory jury determining Wolkoff violated the artists’ rights and putting forth various recommended compensatory awards.

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