5pointz, a graffiti art gallery in the Long Island City neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
NEW YORK — A federal appeals court in New York gave its approval Thursday to a $6.7 million award for nearly two dozen graffiti artists whose spray paintings at a once-famous site that attracted thousands of spectators were destroyed to make room for high-rise luxury residences.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that a judge was correct to award the damages against developers who destroyed the aerosol artwork in 2013. The appeals court said the action violated the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which protects art which has gained recognition.
“In recent years, ‘street art,’ much of which is ‘temporary,’ has emerged as a major category of contemporary art,” the 2nd Circuit said in an opinion written by Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker.
The judge made the award higher than it otherwise would have been after concluding the destruction of the art was willful because the artists were not given three months that the law allows to salvage their artwork.
Marie Cecile Flageul, a curator who worked with the 21 artists who will share the award, said the appeals ruling demonstrated how far graffiti has come from the 1970s when many artists used it to express their anger.
“Now, it’s a validated art form which is collected, acquired and showcased in museums and galleries around the world,” she said.
She said real estate entities in New York, Paris and London now look for ways to preserve graffiti art.