Some Links On 5Pointz, Graffiti, & The Arts–Property Rights & The Rule-Of-Law

Would you be willing to undermine property-rights and the rule-of-law in order to celebrate ‘graffiti-art’?

NY Curbed has 5Pointz coverage here.

A NY Times beat reporter shares in the suffering of those graffiti artists whose 5pointz canvas was whitewashed in preparation for demolition by owner Jerry Wolkoff.

‘One street artist, who would give his name only as Just, had at least two works painted over. He spent hours early Tuesday gazing at the whitewashed buildings, leaning against a red-brick wall across the street. Then he bought himself a tall glass of beer, which he sipped slowly from a brown paper bag.

“Heartbreaking,” he said. “This is not just about graffiti — it’s about the unity of people who met here from all over the world.” He paused and took a drink. “That’s what really hurts.”

Three photos and some backstory here.  5pointz had become something of a graffiti mecca, arguably more than the sum of its parts:

Now that the real-estate market is heating-up in NYC, Wolkoff decided to whitewash his building overnight (where else will De Blasio get the revenue to keep his coalitions together?).

Every bit of graffiti scrawled there over 40-years was at his discretion.

Personally, I don’t take pleasure in the erasing of people’s hard work and creativity, nor in the breaking-up of a graffiti-collective which traveled far and wide to get to 5pointz, nor even in the iconic stature they gave the place, but David Thompson sums it up pretty well:

‘The moral of the story, gentlemen, is buy your own canvas’

The pathos in the Times article stops short of a familiar ‘art will unite all races, classes, & genders,’ type of Leftist political ideology.  It seems the American traditions of property-rights and rule-of-law stop even some of the most ardent liberal commentators at the Time from a full-on celebration of anarchic victim-hood and a culture most probably don’t understand very well.  Better to play-it-safe.

Or better to celebrate the way street-culture and graffiti has interacted with money and market forces through tourism.  5pointz arguably was a tourism draw.

From The Times piece:

‘Though street art is meant to be temporary, 5Pointz became known as a graffiti museum. And the medium itself, once considered a symbol of urban unraveling, became a sought after gallery-worthy commodity, with work from street artists like Banksy commanding millions of dollars. Which is one of the reasons the whitewashing of 5Pointz’s walls was greeted with such vociferous dismay. “What?! What did they do?!” cried a tour guide named Hans Von Rittern, as he raced out of a tour bus early Tuesday, his arms wide, his face crumpling as soon as he caught sight of Ms. Flaguel. They embraced tightly and wept.’

They embraced tightly and wept!

Again, I would argue to the people in the hip-hop community and to whom 5pointz meant something more than a revenue stream or a cultural merit badge:  While property-rights and rule-of-law may have caused you harm in this case, and may pit some of your interests against the interests of others who may not understand where you’re coming from, in the long-run both of these institutions may serve your interests and freedoms better than the collectivism of the Left, and the way the abstract-equality crowd will round you up into groups of victims and claim to feel your pain.

My two cents.  It can’t be a good day for those who lost something. It’s hard out there.

Here’s a video:


So is it worthy of institutionalization?  How does one weigh the aesthetic value of graffiti against the criminality that often goes with it…and the hypocrisy of those who don’t have to live around graffiti and the gang activity who are often legitimizing it? Heather MacDonald has been consistently focusing on the harm done by crime, and to the victims of criminals against those (usually on the Left) who wish to view criminals as victims themselves…within a larger ideological framework…with consequences for the rest of us.

Related On This Site:Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’

People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

 From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

3 thoughts on “Some Links On 5Pointz, Graffiti, & The Arts–Property Rights & The Rule-Of-Law

  1. Regardless of what you read at the Art Crimes web site, much of today’s graffiti is indeed gang related (turf marking, drug oriented, or hate type) tag graffiti. Travel through any large communities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even my little town of Pleasant Hill and it becomes quite obvious. Art Crimes is clueless. The number of persons actually interested in painting pretty pictures must be minuscule when compared to the amount of bad talent and gang graffiti out there. The gang vs artist debate is a smoke screen used to placate communities. Graffiti advocates want you to look the other way. The few who are not in gangs don’t want you to feel concerned or frightened when a gang moniker or the tag from a violent crew appears on the power pole in front of your home. The graffiti advocate knows if you are concerned about the effects of graffiti, the “graffiti artist” down the street might get extra attention from the police. Tagging crews are a gang of sorts, since they are involved in illegal activity that can include theft of paint and markers from stores, violence against the public and other crews, as well as misdemeanor or felony vandalism. Graffiti vandals are indeed in gangs! Anyone who tells you otherwise is uninformed or is trying to deceive you.

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    You’ve summed up the illegality and criminality aspect pretty well. Graffiti is often just marking one’s territory, or the way the unlawful indicate to the lawful that you’re on their turf, and the sign of a bad, unsafe, violent neighborhood dominated by gangs and/or drug gangs.

    I want to take that sentiment and make the case even for the positives of 5pointz, the hard work, creativity, the beauty, the coordination, shouldn’t have to be so at odds with the guy’s perfect right to do with his building as he saw fit, and the harms of the crime and lawlessness that also goes with graffiti. Decent people are killed in those neighborhoods every day. It’s not just a canvas for suburban sentiment and a gritty street drama come to life for tourists and wishful-thinkers.

    You can still make beautiful things in this world and not kill, harm, or threaten people, and you can make beautiful things and recognize that you’d better buy the canvas or be smarter about where you put your hard work and creativity.

    They don’t make a particularly good case

  3. You wrote: ‘Anyone who tells you otherwise is uninformed or is trying to deceive you’

    I think some of them are uninformed and trying to deceive themselves.

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