Photo via Wallplay HQ
A few months ago, the building on the corner of Orchard and Delancey streets housed Wallplay HQ, a three-story exhibition space, fully equipped with art billboards, digital screens and a rooftop for visual projections. Since the company’s establishment in 2013, the physical property has been utilized as a storytelling channel: it’s served as a pop-up store, an event space and a canvas for artists over the years. Now, it’s painted in bright yellow and partly covered in graffiti. To some, it remains a work of art, while to others, it’s nothing more than an eyesore.
While Wallplay HQ, which seeks bridge the gap between corporates and creatives, no longer occupies the building, the physical and virtual space has been transformed repeatedly to host unique brand and artists collaborations over the course of the last three years. Most recently, it was completely painted over in a shade of bright blue for the RIPNDIP NYC POP UP STORE, which ran until June 12; Lord Nermal the Cat, painted on its facade, could be seen from a distance, flipping off every passerby.
Photo via Wallplay HQ
When the pop-up store came to a close, the building received yet another facelift and was completely covered in graffiti. The yellow complex –reminiscent of the architecture once found in Long Island City’s long-lost Five Points – stood out prominently against the rest of the storefronts in the Lower East Side. According to PIX 11, the owner of building had actually encouraged artists to decorate the property.
Then one night in September, the City’s graffiti removal team painted over the building, much to the dismay of people who had developed an affinity for the colorful structure. Following the incident, a spokesperson for the NYC Economic Development Corporation stated the following:
“We know that graffiti can take the form of public art, not just vandalism, and we make every effort to alert property owners before dispatching a crew to clean a building. In this instance our crew didn’t recognize this as commissioned work, we had a standing waiver on file granting the city permission to immediately remove any reported graffiti from the property.”
Although the present owner of the building had allowed artists to decorate its facade, a Forever Graffiti Free waiver was signed by a former owner which technically gave the City the right to remove the graffiti.
In fact, the form allows the City to clean graffiti any time it is reported without the need for the owner to provide consent for each instance; it’s part of a larger Graffiti-Free NYC (GFNYC) Program, launched in 1999 by the NYCEDC, The New York City Department of Sanitation, and the Office of the Mayor.
The incident serves as a reminder of the ever-present debate between city officials, law enforcement, and artists about the role of street art in the City.