Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5Pointz Gets Whitewashed

Last month, I lamented that I only learned about 5Pointz shortly before it was scheduled to be torn down.

I've been meaning to make a trip to see the complex's world-famous graffiti before the demolition, but it seems I'm too late. The building's owner has painted over the artwork.

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

From the New York Times:
Early Tuesday, under the cover of night, painters quietly blanketed much of the walls of 5Pointz with whitewash, erasing the work of hundreds and seemingly putting the final nail in the long battle between the building’s owners, who plan to erect luxury apartments, and the artists who fought to save it.
The property owner wanted to avoid a confrontation as the demolition loomed. He also claims that painting over the artwork was the humane thing to do, since watching the graffiti get destroyed would be "torture." (The truly sad part is now people will have to watch "Now You See Me" to see 5Pointz in its full splendor.)

Here's what's interesting: The owner has agreed to put up a 60-foot wall for new graffiti after he erects the new condos.

I wonder if this sort arrangement has been attempted before. Will there be restrictions on what kind of artwork can be painted on the wall? What if someone paints obscene images, profanity or swastikas?

It's now relatively common for construction projects to be required to include some public art in their plans. In downtown San Francisco, developers of projects with more than 25,000 square feet have to spend at least 1 percent of their budget on art that can be viewed by anyone. (So, they can't just hang a Kandinsky in the boardroom.) Even Berkeley's new animal shelter was recently criticized for not having enough of a public-art component.

Still, I'm not aware of a building making its public art this...well, public.

UPDATE: There was an informative post about 5Pointz on the Gothamist blog that answered some of my questions.

5Pointz was curated by Jonathan Cohen, who is known by his tag, “Meres One.” Under his agreement with the building owner, "a) the works of visual art were not to be political; b) they were to contain nothing religious; and c) no pornography was allowed."

He'll continue that arrangement with the new graffiti wall, and artists will have to come to him for permits (just as they did with 5Pointz).