5Pointz Artists Awarded Millions Following Supreme Court's Denial of Developer's Appeal
5Pointz Artists Awarded Millions Following Supreme Court's Denial of Developer's Appeal
Photo by Siqui Sanchez via Getty Images

5Pointz Artists Awarded Millions Following Supreme Court Denial of Developer's Appeal

A federal district court's previous ruling ordered $6.75 million in damages to 21 artists involved in the suit.

The legal battle between a group of New York graffiti artists and the owner of the city's famed 5Pointz warehouse appears to be over.

According to The New York Times, the US Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal presented by G&M Realty, the real estate company that challenged the 2018 ruling of a lower court ordering them to pay $6.75 million to 21 artists for destroying 45 murals painted on the outside and interior of the building in 2013. The SCOTUS' refusal to acknowledge a petition from G&M bars the company from pursuing any other legal recourse against the artists who sued them.

In 2013, the loose collective of graffiti artists filed suit against G&M, citing The Visual Artists Rights Act, a 1990 bill that empowers the authors of art of "recognized stature" even if they do not actually own the work. The bill authorizes courts to impose damages of up to $150,000 per piece against the owners of the work, granting authors certain "moral rights" to their pieces. Attorneys for G&M claimed the law was "unconstitutionally vague" and violated their due process rights as a result in their initial 2013 filing.

Throughout the 2000s, 5Pointz became a haven for legal graffiti after the company's founder, Gerald Wolkoff, entered an agreement with local artists in 2002, offering the Long Island City building as a canvas, which drew painters from across the globe to tag its towering five-stories in Queens. But in November of 2013, painters arrived to silently whitewash the walls of the building, destroying more than a decade of work from innumerable artists.

At the time, Wolkoff claimed to have the building painted over as to not extend the destruction of the art, planning to replace the warehouse with a luxury apartment building.