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5Pointz after being covered in whitewash.

In the latest development in the ongoing saga of the 5Pointz litigation, the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York recently awarded plaintiffs, a group of graffiti artists, a total judgment of $6,750,000.00 under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) against real estate developer and property owner, Gerald Wolkoff for his white-washing and eventual demolition of the street art painted on the exterior walls of his buildings located in Long Island City, Queens.

VARA protects visual artists against the intentional destruction, mutilation, or other modification of visual art of “recognized stature.” 17 U.S.C. § 106A(a)(3). The buildings, known as “5Pointz,” were, at one point, abandoned and vandalized in the 1990s until plaintiff Jonathan Cohen, with Wolkoff’s permission, began curating the space by carefully selecting the artists and artwork permitted to be shown there. The works were always intended to be temporary. Indeed, the artists understood that the walls served as a rotating platform for other artists, that the majority of the works would be painted-over regularly to make room for others, and that eventually, the buildings themselves would be torn down. See Jonathan Cohen v. G&M Realty L.P., No. 13-CV-05612 (FB)(RLM); No. 15-CV-3230(FB)(RLM), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22662, at *18 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2018).

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