This is no vandalism case in a criminal courthouse, but rather a federal lawsuit filed in 2013 by the 23 artists who painted regularly at 5Pointz, against its owner, Jerry Wolkoff, who ordered the artwork destroyed....How can the artists can win this? Relying on Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, they claim entitlement to notice in writing 90 days before the destruction of the art, which, they say, would have given them the opportunity to remove or photograph the work. The artists are not arguing that the owner can't tear down his building.
The judge’s ruling offers the artists a chance to confront Mr. Wolkoff in court and to seek redress for painting over their work, said Jonathan Cohen, an artist who had curated the murals and helped organize the artists at 5Pointz since 2002....
In an interview, Mr. Wolkoff called the judge’s decision “mind boggling” because the art was never intended for anything but short-term display. The 5Pointz artists followed a street graffiti tradition of creating murals knowing full well that they would soon be painted over by other artists, he added.
“They call it bombing, and the next artist goes over someone else’s work,” he said. “They painted over their own work continually, and it goes on for years. That’s the idea of graffiti. There were tens of thousands of paintings there, over the years, and they’d last for three or six or nine months.... I never thought they’d sue me — they bit the hand that fed them,” he said, adding that the work was, after all, spray painted on his property. He said he reminded the artists constantly that one day he would turn the building into high-rises.
“They knew for 10 years I was going to tear the building down,” he said.... “I know people laugh at me but I cried” watching the building come down, Mr. Wolkoff said.
(Here's my earlier blog post about this controversy.)