Last week, on the heels of City Council approval for condo towers at 5Pointz, the founders of the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center filed a lawsuit against the building owners, but the details of the lawsuit were scarce. The Observer sheds more light on the lawsuit in question: “The artists filed a suit in Federal Court against the owner of the warehouse, G&M Realty, citing a violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), a rarely-invoked bulwark against the faulty attribution and unauthorized alteration of some types of visual art.” According to the U.S. Copyright Office, VARA gives certain visual artists “the right to claim or disclaim authorship in a work; limited rights to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification of a work; and the right, under some circumstances, to prevent destruction of a work that is incorporated into a building.” The work can only be protected under VARA if it has “recognized stature.” The Observer spoke with a law school professor who noted that if VARA does apply it leaves the building owners without any legal means to demolish the warehouse. While it’s unlikely the act will protect the graffiti mecca in the long run, the Aerosol Art Center crew also hopes to use this as a temporary restraining order, buying them time to raise funds to put an offer on the property. Their hope is to turn the warehouse into a permanent gallery.
Photo by Harlan Harris