Now it goes the way of all street art
November 19, 2013 4:51 PM   Subscribe

5pointz is gone. Here's a tour of what one day in its history looked like. Here's 50 nice photos of the building and its surroundings. Bid farewell to one of the most (only?) iconic NYC subway views, as the 7 train emerges from underground.

5Pointz: The Institute of Higher Burning is -- er, was -- the graffiti mecca of the world, and an NYC landmark curated by Meres One. Now, on the heels of a rally trying to save it, after a tiny plea from Banksy, and a last ditch petition, it has been painted white. The owner of the building, who has allowed the space to be used for graffiti for years, is not happy to see it go, and is optimistic about the space for street art that the development, once built, will provide (in addition to affordable housing).
After we've poured one out for 5pointz, here's a cool street art spot in Bushwick.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? (44 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
How are we certain that the whitewash covering the building isn't just a new form of minimalist meta-street-art?
posted by miyabo at 4:53 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine suspects it is to prevent the bad press that would come from photos of art being demolished.
posted by griphus at 4:55 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aw, man. I remember the one and only time I rode the 7 train out of Manhattan, I saw those awesome graffiti murals and assumed it was some area the city had set aside for graffiti artists to do their thing. Never even knew what it was called. At least I got to see it once.
posted by pravit at 4:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an unpopular opinion in the arts-adjacent circles I frequent, but I kind of think that if you're going to insist on making your art on a canvas that someone else owns, you should probably think of it as ephemeral, and accept that this comes with the territory.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [25 favorites]


That's really a shame. 5 Pointz is one of my favorite things to look for on the annual summer trek to the Queens 10k/Half Marathon. It's one of those things that has made Queens perhaps the most interesting outer borough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:02 PM on November 19, 2013


Just like Beat Street, instead of the white train it is the white building. They should go cover it in one night.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:10 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]




.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:21 PM on November 19, 2013


reddit.com/r/graffiti had some interesting comments on this about some graffiti artists wanting to start using anti-graf paint in their work so that when it was whitewashed it would restore itself in the next rain.
posted by loquacious at 5:25 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just came from Buenos Aires, which has an amazing street art scene. Looks like I'll have to go back to see anything at this level of communal participation and artistry. :-( So long, 5pointz.
posted by ericbop at 5:28 PM on November 19, 2013


I rode the 7 past this twice a day for something like a decade. I no longer live in Queens but the city is a little less unique today. Just like Times Square and soon College Point another little grimy, ugly, wonderful bit of the distinctiveness of the city fades into the bland tidal wave of condos.
posted by Skorgu at 5:28 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, part of the point of putting your art on a crumbling abandoned building that's going to be redeveloped one of these years is that your art is on a crumbling abandoned building that's going to be redeveloped.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is the reason I left New York.

Seriously, I just cannot see myself living in a city that doesn't allow for this sort of thing.

.
posted by Sara C. at 5:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an unpopular opinion in the arts-adjacent circles I frequent, but I kind of think that if you're going to insist on making your art on a canvas that someone else owns, you should probably think of it as ephemeral, and accept that this comes with the territory.

The building's owners ran it as an art space and allowed the artists to put their work up on the walls. In addition to a beautiful part of the LIC skyline and a place for street artists to exhibit their work, it was the center of a certain part of the NYC art world. Its loss will definitely be felt for a long time to come.

My take (as someone who is very much a part of the same art community 5Pointz is part of) is that people are mourning the existence of a local institution like this, and not specifically angry that their art is being destroyed.

In my understanding individual pieces come and go, there, anyway. Aside from a few notable exceptions. Somehow there always managed to be more space, that's for sure.
posted by Sara C. at 5:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Luxury condos. Of course.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]




It's sad to see it go. When I was in New York two years ago I made a special pilgrimage to go see it. Here's some photos I took. I see now I neglected to photograph the big obnoxious "no photography without permit" sign. I'm not a big fan of the New York style of street art but 5Pointz was just so amazingly exuberant, I'm sorry it's gone.
posted by Nelson at 5:47 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Art is art and nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am. I just think there are some places for art and there are some places [not for] art. And you running up to somebody’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art. Or it may be art, but it should not be permitted. And I think that’s exactly what the law says."

Again, I would just like to clarify that 5Pointz is a specifically designated space for street art.

The owners have long since used the building as an art space, both inside and out.

The interior of the building is galleries and studios.

The owners not only know that this is going on, and condone it, they have a system licensing out particular spaces to individual artists (and, I believe, a system of rotating out pieces over time).
posted by Sara C. at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I kind of think that if you're going to insist on making your art on a canvas that someone else owns, you should probably think of it as ephemeral, and accept that this comes with the territory. posted by Horace Rumpole

i completely agree. I was glad to have finally made out there to photograph the place a few months ago, but yeah - if you want the art to be permanent, create it somewhere else. And actually, that's what I think will happen. I'd bet that before long another location will be THE place to create that type of work.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2013


the big obnoxious "no photography without permit"

I think that's more for pro-level shoots, not tourists. I've snapped many a cell phone photo of that place over the years and nobody has noticed or cared.

What they really want to avoid is people having guerrilla film shoots, or the licensing headaches that would ensue if someone went out there for a fashion shoot. TBH it's mostly a liability thing.
posted by Sara C. at 5:52 PM on November 19, 2013


The fact is, if you don't allow this guy to redevelop and do what he wants with his buildings, you send a message to other building owners to NEVER EVER allow street art as it will turn your building into something you can't touch, demolish, or rehab if it hurts the artwork.

If you stand back and allow the guy to do what he will with this space and thank him for allowing the art while it lasted, other owners might soften up.

Now, the way this all happened is regretful. Considering the development to condos could mean millions upon millions of dollars, it would have been nice to bring in artist reps and ask them about how to preserve what was there - maybe detailed photos, maybe something else - but do something constructive and get support rather than do battle. Maybe that happened, maybe it didn't - the article didn't say.

You would hope that a building like this could be refurbished and turned into a market or the like, but perhaps it was too far gone. I'd like to think that something so wonderful as this place would be a draw in many cities.
posted by Muddler at 5:54 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you stand back and allow the guy to do what he will with this space and thank him for allowing the art while it lasted, other owners might soften up.


Nobody is "not allowing" the owners to do what owners do with buildings in Long Island City, which is demolish them to make room for luxury condos.

We're just complaining.

Because it sucks.

And because it makes New York, yet again, a slightly less interesting place to be.

I mean I didn't hear about anybody trying to designate the place a landmark or throwing themselves in front of the bulldozers or anything.

It just sucks.
posted by Sara C. at 5:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


You would hope that a building like this could be refurbished and turned into a market or the like, but perhaps it was too far gone.

It already served as artists' studios and galleries.

There were open studios, art crawls, concerts, parties, and other public events year round.

It's not some derelict building that the local street artists decided to nuke with spray paint. It's a specifically curated thing.

Well, it was, anyway. It's going to be hard to remember to refer to this place in the past tense.
posted by Sara C. at 6:01 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


All I'm saying is that if anyone thought it was ugly before, they surely must agree that it's uglier now, where the only satisfaction to be found, ironically, is in defacement.
posted by herrdoktor at 6:23 PM on November 19, 2013


Aw man, that sucks! I went there a few weeks ago and spent a while admiring this one. One of the artists saw me checking it out and said that the guy with the briefcase is meant to be their landlord.
posted by kiskar at 6:54 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


For real just wait a few years and tag the condos.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:35 PM on November 19, 2013


FWIW, in the "not happy to see it go" link, the owner claims he'll have spaces for graffiti artists to do their thing in the new buildings.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:22 PM on November 19, 2013


.
.
.
.
.
posted by lapolla at 8:31 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


hahalolol that same link also claimed there would be "affordable housing" in the same sentence.

"Room for grafitti" probably means there will be a 6x8 rectangle over the row of Barcelona chairs in the lobby that the landlord will commission one known-quantity street artist to decorate.
posted by Sara C. at 8:45 PM on November 19, 2013


.


When I saw the whitewashed walls today, for a moment I thought maybe it was a move by the artists. Maybe they were going to paint the whole building blank to show everyone what they were going to lose. Or maybe it was going to be a primed canvas for one final gigantic piece. But when I heard it was likely a move by the owners to help stop the artists in their quest to get an injunction or a landmark it just made me sad. They owned the building, they have a right to do with it what they please. Graffiti is ephemeral, the artists that work there know their pieces won't last forever.

What is depressing to me is development without context or awareness of the site, the neighborhood, the community, history or what might have been the things drawing people here in the first place. I'm not saying they should put up brownstones or new daylight factory buildings. I'm just thinking that sometimes it seems that in our rush to build higher we don't slow down to consider what we are building on.

This rendering pretty much sums up that lack of awareness of context to me.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:46 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can not find a citation at the moment but I think one of Keith Haring's murals was moved, concrete wall and all, so that the mural would remain intact in the early 90's.
posted by mlis at 8:47 PM on November 19, 2013


kiskar, I did the same thing! If I remember correctly that piece was on a fence, so maybe it's still there?
posted by archagon at 9:21 PM on November 19, 2013


It was fun while it lasted, it was a beautiful scene, I'm glad it was a part of my city, and now it's gone. That's New York. It's not like the fucking Hippodrome is still around either.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:41 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I realized it was time to go when about half of my anecdotes started out, "Remember [place that closed years ago]? The first time I came to Brooklyn, my boyfriend and I went there to watch a raggedy old 16mm print of Weekend, by Godard..."

I started to feel like a ghost. So I left.

I like living in a city where amazing places aren't just anecdotes.
posted by Sara C. at 9:44 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like living in a city that lives, breathes and changes with me as I live with it. Also it dies a little too.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:46 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it tragic.

.
posted by koucha at 4:25 AM on November 20, 2013


It's an impossible situation. I wouldn't mind living in a world where something like 5pointz was preserved via eminent domain, and the city could pay the owner for the property, but even typing that out I am cringing at the ridiculousness of it. And can you imagine? There is so much that is so zombified about New York these days, like that amazon fungus that eats ants and wasps from the inside out, leaving what looks sort of like an ant but really its just a spore-delivery unit. Whitewashed walls just ahead of demolition are far, far better than "5Pointz - the Disney experience, brought to you by Chips Ahoy Cookies, CITI, and SC Johnson (a family company.)"

Plus, and I say this as a person who has done a fair amount of painting and pasting on walls that were not my own, part of the deal with graffiti/street art is that once you've done it it is out of your hands. By putting it somewhere that is not sterilized and formulated for it you gain the ability to get it in front of eyeballs that wouldn't otherwise see it and you lose the ownership and stewardship of it. Admittedly, a place like 5Pointz is a little different, in that there is a history and density, but it is still, at root, not controlled by the people who are painting it, and that just is what it is.

Really, this is just the inevitable little tragedy that occurs each time a good or intentional piece of street art is obliterated, but 1000 times in one night. And it is that much more impactful because it is a metaphorically tidy parallel for the path that New York in general seems to find itself on.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:03 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised they had trouble getting the space declared as a landmark, and I'm having trouble tracking down exactly why their August application was denied, only that it was. Anyone know why?
posted by likeatoaster at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2013


People mourn in the same way when a great club shuts down, or a bar or a coffee shop that hosted great poetry events, or whatever.

And it's obvious that the art in those cases is ephemeral: you can record a live performance, but you can't actually keep the performance itself (or the scene surrounding it).

But still. The end of something awesome-but-necessarily-ephemeral is still sad.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:53 AM on November 20, 2013


.
posted by papafrita at 8:33 AM on November 20, 2013


I wouldn't mind living in a world where something like 5pointz was preserved via eminent domain, and the city could pay the owner for the property

Just to be super clear, 5pointz isn't going away because the city wants the land to do something useful for everyone.

The land owner realized that he could make a LOT more money if, instead of an old warehouse full of art spaces, he had a high rise condo development.

The New York Magazine article about, hey, maybe this guy isn't the bad guy in this situation is laughable, because of course he's the bad guy. He's the guy who got tired of making only so-so money as a steward of the art community and decided it was time to sell out and get his, artists be damned.

I'm sure he's not a bad person or anything, but no, actually, he is the bad guy in this situation.

FWIW I'm not sure landmark status or any other artificial preservation of the space For All Time is necessarily a great idea, either. I guess I just wish this particular landlord said, "You know, making a few million a year owning an art space is good enough for me! Fuck all this luxury housing development nonsense!"

The whole thing just reeks of "fuck you I got mine" in a way that I think is pretty antithetical to the spirit of what New York is about.

I'm surprised they had trouble getting the space declared as a landmark, and I'm having trouble tracking down exactly why their August application was denied, only that it was. Anyone know why?

Just spitballing here, but probably because

- It's Queens, and an industrial/not-terribly-historic part of town. Landmark Status is much easier to argue in quaint historical neighborhoods full of brownstones.

- Probably something to do with brown people, because when people hear "Queens" and "Grafitti" they think of people who aren't white.
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 AM on November 20, 2013


The interior of the building hasn't been used for years when a stairwell collapsed and an artist died. The owners allowed the building to become derelict. Just adding this as information since some people are commenting as if the past was still present.
posted by Pineapplicious at 2:10 PM on November 20, 2013


The interior of the building hasn't been used for years when a stairwell collapsed and an artist died. The owners allowed the building to become derelict.

This is actually not true, or at least not as of about 18 months ago (at which point plans to demolish were already in place). I was at an open studio event there last summer.

That said, it could be true that some parts of the building were no longer used/allowed to become derelict.

Either way, it was allowed to become derelict by the owner, knowing that they planned to eventually demolish the building and develop condos. It's not a building that was deserted or fell into disuse.

There might be some misconceptions here because the building looks so similar to other "urban exploration" type spaces in other cities. 5pointz has been very much a going concern and is not a long-abandoned derelict building.
posted by Sara C. at 2:31 PM on November 20, 2013


Here's what I found after I ran a google search for "5pointz artist death".

Nobody died.

An artist was injured in 2009 after an exterior fire escape collapsed.

This revealed that a lot of the interior improvements to the building were not to code.

Artists were temporarily evicted while the owner (same guy currently tearing the place down) got right with the fire marshall.

I have personally visited MANY times in the intervening years, and can guarantee via seeing it with my own eyes that the building was not permanently deserted following the fire escape collapse.

The blame for the fire escape collapse resides entirely with the landlord, and like super duper proves for realsies that this is not a case of needing to tear down a derelict building that was rotting form the inside out. It's a case of deciding you're done subsidizing the local arts community and are ready to get the millions you think you've got coming to you.
posted by Sara C. at 2:40 PM on November 20, 2013


« Older Mirrors on the ceiling   |   36 years in the making Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments