April 2018. Jerry Wolkoff, owner of the famous 5Pointz building in New York, has been ordered to pay almost 7 million dollars to a group of graffiti artists after he whitewashed over their work, which covered the 5Pointz complex, without their permission.
After allowing – and even encouraging – artists to paint graffiti on his buildings for many years, the property developer announced in 2011 that he intended to remove the paintings on 5Pointz in order to convert the premises into luxury apartments.
In an attempt to block the move, the artists took Wolkoff to court. The initial ruling was that as owner of the complex he couldn’t be prevented from carrying through his plans, but that he could in theory be held liable for compensation at a later stage. Wolkoff took the chance and had the graffiti painted out.
Now, in a new case, a court has concluded that the works had acquired a ‘recognised status’ and that by removing them, Wolkoff was liable for damages. And those damages amount to an eye-watering collective total of nearly 7 million.