Place Hacking

Graffiti Artists vs. House Owners


For decades graffiti has been causing judical issues now. Most of this artworks are being created on walls that do not belong to the artists and mean a massive annoyance to many house owners and municipalities. Heaps of investigations and trails derived from this style of art all around the world so far. In New York things now go the other way round: Artists are currently suing a house owner for destroying their works.

The walls in question belonged to the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center  in Long Island City, New York, and has already been teared down. In 2004 Jonathan „Meres One“ Cohen was given keys to the building owned by Jerry Wolkoff and his company G&M Realty. During the following years the facade became colourful: Artists such as Maria Castillo (TOOFLY), James Cochran (Jimmy C), Luis Gomez (Ishmael), Bienbenido Guerra (FCEE) and Kai Niederhausen (Semor) sprayed the walls with their writings. Like this 5Pointz became a unique urban piece of art.



In 2013 a longer law trail ended with the house owners creating precedents: Just over night they whitewashed the whole building. All the art works were destroyed by white paint just sprayed onto them, nothing remained. Hundreds of people joined a rally to protest against this demolition, but there wasn’t anything left to do. For the protesters the whitewashing did not make sense: The demolition of the 5Pointz site was already planned by then and would have happened some months later. Time, the artists would have liked to use for preservation of their works.

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Now the affected artists are demanding restitution for their losses caused by Wolkoff’s whitewashing action: They filed in a complaint in federal court in Brooklyn this month. The group is claiming that „the destruction was gratuitous, willful, and wanton, and undertaken without regard to the feelings, reputations, or financial interests of the plaintiffs“. They complain about not being given any chance to remove or preserve their works before their ultimate destruction.

With this urban art scene is facing a new dimension of the judical questions: The judges will have to decide whether graffiti writings become acknowledged artworks. Do they derserve protection, regardless of the wall’s owners opinion? There are interesting times coming up at Brooklyn Federal Court.

And by the way: At the site, where 5Pointz used to be located, now is a construction site. G&M Realty is building – what a surprise – luxury apartments there.


Thomas Büsch

Filmmaker, Founding Member and Secretary General of diyalog, promotion of cultural exchange with Turkey. Since 2012 he is also project manager of InEnArt.

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