5pointz, the worlds only building even resembling a graffiti museum is under threat. With the current owners attempting to sell up, it looks as though the 200,000 sq ft building which houses, both inside and out, an incredible array of aerosol art by artists both native to the US, and from lands far far away, will be torn down and redeveloped.
5Pointz From The Subway
I first heard about 5pointz whilst researching my New York A to Z. The gallery didn’t make my final 26 owing to F being the Flatiron Building and P being Central Park, but it was however a place I still really wanted to visit whilst in New York, or at least see from afar. And so I did, upon taking the number 7 train from Grand Central Terminal out to Queens, 5Pointz was hard to miss from the window of our subway carriage as we passed through Long Island. It stood out a mile against a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. I wasn’t quite ready with the camera whilst on the way out to Queens though, so the below were actually taken from the window of the 7 train heading back into Manhattan.
A Quick History Of 5Pointz
The name of this graffiti mecca took inspiration from the 5 boroughs of New York, and their coming together as one. As such, the former factory space has played hosts to a number of New Yorker’s weddings, a series of hip-hop gigs and even special memorials. The gallery’s curator, graffiti veteran Jonathan Cohen AKA ‘Meres One’ has insured over the past 11 years that no pornography, profanity or political art has been displayed at 5Pointz, therefore maintaining the terms of the agreement set in place between he and landowner and developer Jerry Wolkoff.
The relationship between Cohen and Wolkoff is said to have run fairly smoothly until Wolkoff decided he wanted to cash in on the land. Over the past three years the two parties have tried to come to a compromise, but alas no agreement has been reached. This has left Cohen threatening to chain himself to the building in protest, rather than see 5Pointz destroyed and a new $400m complex developed in its place. “I’m here till the last day – chained to the building is definitely a scenario that might go down if it has to,” said Cohen, who along with 16 other regular artists at 5Pointz, have filed a lawsuit against the developers, arguing that the work on the walls at 5Pointz is protected under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act (Vara).
Though the New York City Council had already approved demolition plans, a federal judge last week (17th Oct 2013) granted Cohen and friends a 10 day restraining order against the wrecking crew. 5Pointz survives for a while long at least and its artists are using this time to lobby for support. In recent weeks the artists at 5Pointz have reached out to our very own street art sensation Banksy, who as it happens is taking New York by storm at the moment.
Why Would Wolkoff Sell?
Wolkoff’s decision to sell appears to have stemmed from an incident in 2009 were an artist was seriously injured on site when a staircase collapsed. An investigation by city officials resulted in a number of citations against the Wolkoffs. He started to explore the option of selling soon after.
IF Cohen & Co can get enough money together to buy the land, and IF Wolkoff is willing to sell to them rather than another developer, Cohen has stated that he plans to open a school for aspiring aerosol artists, complete with a formalized curriculum that imparts lessons in teamwork, art history, and entrepreneurship in addition to technique. It sounds like an excellent plan … not that I personally know a lot about art. But I know that I like the look of the 5Pointz setup and that what Cohen is planning sounds like it will be of significant benefit to up and coming artists in the area, which number wise is only likely to increase now that Banksy has tore though New York and caused a wee bit of a stir. Unknowingly I stumbled upon one of Banksy’s more political works whilst in New York. I didn’t even recognise it as his work so different was it to his usual, and only found out it was under seeing it in the news.
As mentioned above, I know little about art other than what appeals to me and what does not. Street Art appeals to me, I simply like the way it looks and appreciate the creativity and skill involved. As a tourist in New York I would have loved to have taken a tour of 5Pointz (sadly time was against me) and would happily paid for the pleasure. I can see on the 5Pointz official website that tours are offered, and guided by Cohen himself, but that they cost $0.00. Maybe/hopefully, if 5Pointz remains, some cash to go towards running costs can be raised through future tours which cost a few dollars. Its unusual that I would call for a price hike in anything, but if a few bucks per person is the difference between an attraction staying open or having to close down, I think I and many others could live with paying for a tour of such an attraction. Add to the amount of incredible artwork on show the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from the 5Pointz roof and $5-10 per person would still be a bargain.
I hope 5Pointz is still standing if/when I return to New York, but if not I am glad that I at least got to see it just once … well twice (it was a return train journey).
5Pointz official website – http://5ptz.com/
Petition to save 5 Pointz – http://m.ipetitions.com/#petition/support5pointz
Save 5Pointz Instagram account – http://instagram.com/save5pointz
It has gone. Sadly, after a lengthy battle, 5Pointz is no more. The below Instagram tells the sad sad story.