5Pointz wins the first case that protects graffiti under federal law

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The verdict could lead to laws that protect urban artists all over the United States

On November 8, a jury declared the real estate agent Jerry Wolkoff guilty of destroying a swath of graffiti by 23 artists on the legendary 5Pointz building in New York.

The jury decided that the pieces are protected by the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), making this the first case where graffiti art is protected by federal law in the US. The verdict could lead to laws that protect urban artists all over the country. According to Eric Baum, the lawyer representing the 23 artists, this case “confirms that aerosol art is the same as any other fine art”.

5Pointz was not just a tourist attraction in Queens, but one of the most important places for graffiti artists around the globe. For many years Wolkoff allowed artists to intervene the building, but in 2013, he decided to build apartments and cover all the works without any notice.

According to The New York Times, the artists had an advantage since the beginning of the case. Even though the building was Wolkoff’s property, and he argued on his defense that graffiti is an “ephemeral” art, the judge considered that he should have informed the artists of his actions.

Wolkoff declared this year that covering the artworks was the “most human” gesture he has done because he really liked the pieces on his property, but he thought it would be less cruel of an act to cover them first than to simply demolish them.

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