In September 2013, Long Island City’s graffiti museum 5 Pointz will likely be demolished, destroying two decades worth of aerosol art.
As the Sunnyside Post reports, property owner David Wolkoff presented his plans at a community board meeting for the construction of two high-rise residential buildings, measuring 47 and 41 stories tall, in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood of Long Island City. This isn’t the first time there have been rumors of the site’s impending demolition and redevelopment, and Wolkoff’s current project requires a special permit from the Department of City Planning as well as a seven-month uniform land use procedure. If everything is approved, however, 5 Pointz will be gone by September 2013, which marks 20 years since the building first started offering its walls to graffiti artists who have created elaborate work of all kinds.
Although there are no plans for affordable housing in the new high-rise apartment buildings, Wolkoff, giving a nod to the art he will be destroying, wants to include a few walls where graffiti artists can display their work, as well as a small number of artist studios.
Featuring work by legendary figures such as Stay High 149, Blade and Lady Pink next to countless other local and international writers, 5 Pointz is an unofficial graffiti museum. A tourist destination as well as a mecca for graffiti enthusiasts, 5 Pointz traces the history of graffiti on its walls.
5 Pointz holds an important place in graffiti history as it has served as an important social hub for the creative channel of the graffiti movement. Artists of different generations from all over the world could meet and collaborate and in turn, bring new ideas to the movement. On any weekend, you might come across a 50 year old graffiti king from New York chatting with a 20 year old from Germany. Lots of networking occurs at 5 Pointz.
It has also helped to shape new generations. 5 Pointz came into being in an era when the graffiti movement in New York was divided between legal and illegal graffiti, so it served as a venue for aspiring graffiti artists, who might paint illegally if it did not exist. When it’s gone, perhaps the up and coming kids will head straight into the illegal arena of tagging and street bombing. I don’t mind this, but Mayor Bloomberg’s office certainly will. Maybe New York will breed a new generation of writers with real street cred for the first time in a while.
I think the biggest loss will be the fact that we will be losing the closest thing the graffiti movement has to a museum. I am not a big fan of graffiti art in museums, I prefer it in the context in which it evolved — the streets and subways. However, I think a museum-style presentation of the work is helpful in educating the public about the movement. Despite the fact that the 5 Pointz is a legal venue, it presents the art form in its proper context — outdoors, in public view. It affords tourists an opportunity to connect with the art and the movement as one in any formal venue. Its scale and location are ideal as well. Ten minutes from Manhattan and spread out on a square city block allows for a wide scope of artistic styles to be easily accessible to the public. People can meet and interact with artists. I think that the loss of the 5 Points may slow public acceptance of the art form, but then again the movement never caught acceptance. I will certainly miss 5 Pointz [curator] MERES[, who] does a great job!
We reached out to Meres for a comment on the situation, but he declined to say much. He told Hyperallergic:
“We’re here now, we’ll be here next summer, and for me to speak on it would be taking away from what we’re doing right now.”