The iconic 5 Pointz building, as seen from the 7 train.

5 Pointz, the largest legal aerosol art exhibit in the US  is a cultural gem slated to be destroyed – but the artists won’t go down without a fight. Last week, the City Council approved the plans for two enormous residential towers, for which the iconic 5 Pointz building will be demolished. The approval was heartbreaking yet unsurprising news to artists and fans alike. But the next morning, 5 Pointz filed a lawsuit to prevent developers from tearing down the building.

Led by curator Jonathan Meres Cohen, the graffiti art collective seeks a temporary restraining order against the buildings’ owners, Jerry and David Wolkoff of G&M Realty. The lawsuit is filed under the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, which grants artists certain moral rights over their work, regardless of who owns it. This includes the right, under some circumstances, to prevent destruction of a work that is incorporated into a building. 5 Pointz, which the Wolkoffs allowed the artists to paint legally for many years, contains what is presumably one of the world’s largest collections of aerosol art, which will be destroyed when the building is demolished.  According to a press release from 5Pointz, their lawsuit is “the first in the nation in which graffiti artists have sought legal protection for their artwork.”

The first hearing is today, Thursday 10/17 at 3pm in Brooklyn Federal Court (225 Cadman Plaza East, Judge Fredric Block)

David and Goliath mural, an appropriate metaphor for the legal battle between the artists of 5 pointz and G&M Realty.  By Up Art Studio RK Design: Statik, Gape, Zero, Poem, Same.

As discussed in our last photo essay, the loss of 5 Pointz will have great impact on artists and the New York arts and culture scene. Community arts organizations such as 5 Pointz are extremely important. They are artist-founded and driven, provide education and programming to youth and families, and support the arts with tiny budgets. These creative people, their works, and their energy are what make New York vibrant. If artists are priced out and grassroots cultural spaces are replaced by luxury high rises, what we will have is a city full of expensive, mostly mundane, real estate with little existing developer incentive to create cultural impact or value.

Sadly, this is becoming a familiar story when artists make an area desirable, and are then pushed out by real estate developers.  As David Byrne writes in his recent op-ed:

What then, is the future of New York, or really of any number of big urban centers, in this new Gilded Age? Does culture have a role to play? If we look at the city as it is now… most of Manhattan and many parts of Brooklyn are virtual walled communities, pleasure domes for the rich (which, full disclosure, includes me), and aside from those of us who managed years ago to find our niche and some means of income, there is no room for fresh creative types. Middle-class people can barely afford to live here anymore, so forget about emerging artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, journalists and small business people. Bit by bit, the resources that keep the city vibrant are being eliminated.

Rachel Alban_Untapped Cities_ 5 pointz art center_September October 2013
View from the 7 train, featuring Dasic, Meres, Michael De Feo, Shiro, Owen Dippie, and many others.

The artists of 5 Pointz may legally occupy and work on the building until December, a date which certainly may be extended while in court.  In the meantime, it is business as usual at 5 Pointz, and artists from around the globe continue to collaborate, teach and learn, and create some of the most exciting and impressive public art works in the city.  Check out the next Sidetour to 5Pointz, follow them on their Twitter and official website and check out this excellent conversation about the validity of street art and graffiti between Meres and other graffiti legends.

Read our past coverage on Untapped, and stay tuned for more, as this exciting story unfolds.

Here are some photos from  September and October:

Rachel Alban_Untapped Cities_ 5 pointz art center_September October 2013-0011
Mural by Dasic, a Chilean-born artist (detail)
Starry Night themed mural by Python and Panic
Starry Night themed mural by Python and Panic
Rachel Alban_Untapped Cities_ 5 pointz art center_September October 2013-002
Jimi Hendrix themed mural (partial) by DJ JS1 and Pazroc.
Rachel Alban_Untapped Cities_ 5 pointz art center_September October 2013-003
Love Warrior by TooFly and Meresone
Mural by local artist Kid Lew
Rachel Alban_Untapped Cities_ 5 pointz art center_September October 2013-004
Mural by Dase, a Barcelona-based artist.
DJ Alouz and Doudou, in progress.
Mural by French artists Djalouz and Doudou (photographed while in progress).
Collaborative piece by Brinx, Fred, Djalouz, and Doudou
Collaborative piece: Brinx, Fred, Djalouz, and Doudou
Mocks 108, notadamnthing
A playful mural by Mocks 108 and Not a Damn Thing.
Statue of Liberty by Véronique Barillot. The French inscription on the side translates to "Give me the freedom to paint."” alt=”Rachel Alban_Untapped Cities_ 5 pointz art center_September October 2013″ src=”” width=”640″ height=”427″ /> Statue of Liberty by Véronique Barillot. The French inscription translates to “Give me the freedom to paint.”
Bode, MeresOne and Shiro
Bode, MeresOne, and Shiro


See more photography from Rachel Fawn Alban.