The 303 Collective's Water Street mural (photo by dumbonyc/Flickr)

The 303 Collective’s Water Street mural (photo by dumbonyc/Flickr)

The street artist Craig Anthony Miller is suing the real estate developer Toll Brothers for using a mural he painted in Dumbo, Brooklyn, to market a nearby condo development. Miller, known by his tag “CAM,” claims in court documents that a “very recognizable” portion of the large mural — which he painted with fellow members of the 303 Collective — was featured in advertisements for the Toll Brothers project 205 Water Street in New York City subways, on bus shelters, on phone booths, and in a newspaper advertisement in 2012, according to the New York Post.

The famous mural, which was long a popular backdrop for the many wedding photographers bringing clients to Dumbo for mandatory skyline pictures, was painted over and the building that held it demolished in 2013 by another real estate developer, Alloy Development, to make way for a different luxury housing development at 55 Pearl Street, the “DUMBO Townhouses.” It featured a memory of stylized robot elephants and a pair of fluttering cherubs gallivanting in a futuristic forest.

Court documents reviewed by Hyperallergic show that Miller repeatedly met with Toll Brothers officials over a period of several months after he discovered they were using images of his mural on promotional materials. He produced new work for the developer to use in advertisements, however, “no projects ever materialized and no payment was ever made to [Miller] for the infringing use of the Water Street Mural in [Toll Brothers’] advertisements,” according to the complaint filed on January 21.

This isn’t the first time a street artist has sued over the unauthorized use of a mural. In the summer of 2014 Maya Hayuk took the fashion house Coach and the singer Sara Bareille to court for using her Houston Street mural as the backdrop for promotional materials. Around the same time, the street artists Jaz, Ever, and Other sued filmmaker Terry Gilliam for using a “misappropriation” of their collaborative mural in his film The Zero Theorem.

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

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