On November 18, 2013, New Yorkers woke up to the news that Long Island City street art haven 5Pointz had been whitewashed, following an arduous effort to save and landmark the building. Since then, operating as 5Pointz Creates, the art collective has remained active, engaging in a number of public projects across the country, including gallery shows, an interactive installation at Panorama Music Festival, and a takeover of the hallways of August Martin High School in Queens.

Now, five years after the whitewash, 5Pointz Creates has come together to create MoSA. MoSA, which stands for Museum of Street Art, is a site-specific installation housed in the new citizenM Bowery hotel at 189 Bowery. Curated by 5Pointz Director, Marie Cecile Flageul, MoSA is 5Pointz Creates’ largest public project since 2013. Fully funded by citizenM, this project shows that despite what happened at 5Pointz, it is clear that a successful collaboration between the aerosol art community and real estate hospitality is possible.

The original 5Pointz building, in August 2013 before the whitewash.

MoSA spans 20 stories of citizenM Bowery’s stairwell as well as outdoor terra-cotta works and mural. The “Vertical Love Letter to the Lower East Side” stairwell installation was inspired by icons of the neighborhood, each floor showcasing the work of an individual artist. The participating artists—all of whom were an integral part of the original 5 Pointz—represent seven countries and span ages 25-65.

Mural by Meres One for MoSA at CitizenM Bowery.

Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen is the founder of the 5 Pointz Aerosol Center and is the Lead Artist and Art Director of 5Pointz Creates. Born in the South Bronx, raised in Flushing, Queens, and now living in a Brooklyn, Meres has been dedicated to graffiti for over 30 years and considered one of the biggest advocates for legal walls and artist rights. Meres is known for his wild style tags, nods to hip-hop, and trade-marked lightbulb design “The Bright Idea”. His versatility is showcased at MoSA.
In the plaza at MoSA, and visible from the street, is a 5,000 square foot mural by Meres. Culling letters from the original graffiti landmark, Meres deconstructed and layered forms to generate a larger-than-life graffo-abstraction. The mural is reminiscent of the stained glass windows common in synagogues and churches in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, and according to the artist represents a “rebirth” in his life after the traumatic loss of 5Pointz.

Mural by Meres One, part of the “Vertical Love Letter To The Lower East Side” at MoSA.

The rooftop of the hotel known as Cloud M, opens the exhibition. In Meres’ mural on the 20th floor, he created a fish-eye view from Cloud M down into the Bowery architectural details and lines, including the facade of the landmarked Germania Bank building. In his mural, he has reimagined the roof to include aspects of the roof at the original 5Pointz, including the original logo as well as names of several graffiti writers who had had passed away and had been memorialized across the top of 5Pointz.
MoSA and 5Pointz Creates logos designed by Meres One

Christian Cortes, a born and raised Queens artist proudly representing his Colombian background, started writing graffiti in the early nineties. Located on the 19th floor, Cortes’ mural depicts the mosaic subway tiles of the old Bowery train station. The concept works particularly well with the wrap-around of the stairs as it is reminiscent of entering the subway and discovering his piece.

Cortes was assigned the subject matter of the Bowery train stop because of his “clean lines and sharp composition” says curator Marie Flageul, and allowed to come up with his own vision, as all the artists were. As an homage to 5Pointz, Cortes included his motto “Art Above All” and his signature skull motif, which was a showstopper at the original 5Pointz.

Mural by Cortes, part of the “Vertical Love Letter To The Lower East Side” at MoSA.

Mural by Cortes, part of the “Vertical Love Letter To The Lower East Side” at MoSA.

Finally, Cortes included a small building that resembles 5Pointz – but clean and blank. “That’s my way of saying look at where we were when we started and look at where we are now,” he explained at the MoSA opening reception. “It’s really exciting for me as a New Yorker to see graffiti taken to this level – with this height and detail, and with this many participants.”

RuPaul Mural by Elle, part of the “Vertical Love Letter To The Lower East Side” at MoSA.

California native Elle is one of five women to paint at MoSA. She first started gaining recognition all over Brooklyn in 2010 for giant fire extinguisher pieces and tags, painted without permission. Elle’s first ever legal piece was painted on the roof of 5 Pointz in the summer of 2012. “The roof was a perfect location for the (at the time) vandal, away from photographers and tourists alike”, recalls curator Marie Flageul. “She was schooled for not having a sketch and a clear plan of what she was about to paint. The lesson learned that day was clearly not lost, and her full time art career was possibly sparked that day.”
Elle’s mural at MoSA features a portrait of famed drag queen RuPaul in a photo realistic, collage style which illustrates the “two faces” of Charles and RuPaul. The singer, performer and TV host started their drag career hosting iconic parties at the Pyramid in the Lower East Side and hosting public access TV.

RuPaul Mural by Elle, part of the “Vertical Love Letter To The Lower East Side” at MoSA.

In addition to Meres, Cortes, and Elle, who were featured in this post, eighteen other amazing artists contributed to this installation at MoSA.

Marie Flageul and Meres One on CloudM, the rooftop of CitizenM Bowery.

Untapped Cities was thrilled to offer a special tour of MoSA, free for Untapped Cities Insiders shortly after the museum’s opening, co-hosted by Marie Cecile Flageul, MoSA Curator, 5Pointz Director, and longtime 5Pointz activist and supporter Rachel Fawn Alban (the author of this article, who adopted the 5Pointz cat, Graffiti Cat Baxter!). Not an Insider yet? Become a member today and access free off-limits tours and events in New York City.