5Pointz was an outdoor art exhibit space at 45–46 Davis Street in Long Island, New York City, where colorful murals were exhibited on the exterior walls of an old warehouse, drawn by artists from the world over. The graffiti space was curated by Jonathan Cohen, a graffiti artist going under the moniker of “Meres”, who billed the exhibit as "the world's premier graffiti mecca". Indeed, as its reputation as an epicenter of the graffiti scene grew, the industrial complex began to draw aerosol artists from across the world. Even the elusive British street artist Banksy got into the act.
The high visibility of the building from the New York City Subway's IRT Flushing Line attracted a large number of visitors, including prominent artists, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, and entire tour buses full of admirers soaking in the more than 1,500 murals. The site is noted in foreign guidebooks as the hippest tourist attraction in Queens. The building served as a backdrop for movies and music videos, notably including Joss Stone, who filmed her video for Tell Me ’Bout It on an exterior staircase.
5Pointz doesn’t exist anymore. It was demolished in 2014 after its owner decided to make better use of the neglected property and build a condominium complex instead.
The warehouse was owned by property developer Jerry Wolkoff who bought the building in the 1970s but did not have immediate plans for redevelopment. When he was approached in the 1990s for permission to use the exterior walls for legal graffiti work, he granted. For the next two decades, the five-storey warehouse developed into a world wide art tourism destination. Jonathan Cohen came into the scene in 2002. It was he who gave the building the name "5Pointz" signifying the five boroughs of New York coming together as one. Jonathan Cohen had plans to convert the 5Pointz building into a graffiti museum, but before he could do so, Wolkoff changed his mind.
After 40 years of abandonment, the Wolkoff family decided to develop the 5Pointz site into a thousand-unit condominium. The $400 million redevelopment project will include a new public park, over 50,000 square feet of retail space and a 250 space public parking garage.
On the morning of November 19, 2014, art lovers were horrified to find the graffiti on the exterior of the building painted white overnight. Resentment and criticism followed accompanied by protests and demonstration and the words "Art Murder" was sprayed over the whitewash in big blue and red letters. A lawsuit was filed by the graffiti artists claiming that their work was protected under The Visual Artists Rights Act, but a New York judge refused to grant an injunction that would have stopped demolition. The artists even attempted to nominate the building as a landmark, but that too was rejected on the grounds that the art was less than 30 years old at the time.
Jerry Wolkoff later promised to make amends by setting aside a 10,000 square feet space in the new building to be used exclusively for art panels, including ground level facades to be used for curated graffiti.
But Jonathan Cohen was not to be pleased. “Those walls will remain white. No artist will ever paint on anything you own again,” he responded, and then added, “I hope he’s happy. He destroyed the artwork and the biggest tourist attraction in Queens. I don’t care if he builds the tallest building in New York, nobody’s going to remember him for anything but that.”
The building after it was whitewashed. Photo credit
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