A federal judge in Brooklyn on Monday awarded $6.7 million to graffiti artists whose works at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City were destroyed in 2013, The New York Times reports.
Twenty-one graffiti artists sued 5Pointz owner Jerry Wolkoff, a real estate developer, for painting over the dozens of murals that adorned the complex in 2013. They accused Wolkoff of violating the Visual Artists Rights Act, which protects public art created on another person's property. A three-week trial began in November, and a civil jury found that Wolkoff broke the law in destroying the art works.
Although Judge Frederic Block initially changed the verdict to a recommendation, but on Monday he upheld the decision of the jury, and awarded the artists the maximum damages allowed.
"He was bent on doing it his way, and just as he ignored the artists' rights he also ignored the many efforts the Court painstakingly made to try to have him responsively answer the questions posed to him," Block wrote in his opinion, according to The Washington Post. "Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant."
He added that "If not for Wolkoff's insolence, these damages would not have been assessed. If he did not destroy 5Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully."
The artists' lawyer, Eric Baum, described the decision as "a victory not only for the artists in this case, but for artists all around the country."
"The clear message is that art protected by federal law must be cherished and not destroyed," he added. "With this win, the spirit of 5Pointz becomes a legacy for generations of artists to come."
Wolkoff's lawyer, David Ebert, did not respond to a request for comment from the Times.
"5Pointz was its temple, though it can never be replaced, this judgement is a monumental step for our culture and our art form," former 5Pointz director Jonathan Cohen, who is also known as Meres One told Artnet News in an email Monday. "Judge Block's decision will change the art form perception for generations to come."
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