Who Owns Graffiti, the Artists or the Developers?
Barry Werbin is quoted in an Artnet News report discussing a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit underway in Brooklyn, where 20 graffiti artists whose work adorned the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens, are facing off against the developer who demolished both the complex and the art adorning its walls. Commenting on the case, which pits artists’ ability to protect and preserve their own work under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) against developers’ rights to do what they please with their own property, Barry notes that the outcome will hinge in large part on whether the plaintiffs can prove their works were of “recognized stature” under VARA. “There is very little guidance on what ‘recognized stature’ is,” Barry notes, while highlighting another key facet of the case - that the developer always made it clear that 5Pointz would not be permanent. The artists “did this work with eyes wide open…. They knew there was no permanency here,” Barry says. “These are all untested issues, which is why the case is so fascinating.”