- Words by Joanna Pan
MoSA Bowery: A Vertical Love Letter [VIDEO]
We can only visit the original 5Pointz through photos and discourse: the LIC graffiti mecca was razed over four years ago, by real estate developer Jerry Wolkoff and his corporate arm, G&M Realty.
The brick-and-mortar segment of 5Pointz’s demise, at least, was both legal and expected: not so the earlier, 2013 destruction of the aerosol art for which 5Pointz became legend. In November of that year, 5Pointz's expertly adorned walls were white-washed under cover of night. The Wolkoff-orchestrated, annihilating blitz was a bona fide "art crime" that violated VARA, a suite of visual arts laws that stipulate protections for "even temporary works” of art on buildings.
Twenty-one 5Pointz artists -- spearheaded by artist/curator Jonathan Cohen -- sued Wolkoff / G&M Realty in federal court and won big this February. Eastern District Court Judge Frederic Block ordered G&M Realty to pay a total of $6.7 million compensation to the cited artists for disregarding VARA-prescribed channels of proper notification and destroying the art.
This March Wolkoff contested Block's ruling, claiming the February court decision was "legally insupportable." G&M Realty's court filing describes the $6.7 million award conferred upon the artists as “punish[ing] the defendants to an extent that is greatly excessive.”
This June, Judge Block denied Wolkoff’s motions to contest the ruling that favored the 5Pointz artists. His accompanying court opinion contained the revelation that Block had been "misled” by the prominent real estate developer: during his preliminary injunction hearing, Wolkoff claimed to have been under grave pressure to demolish the 5Pointz buildings by end-of-December, 2013.
In fact, a demolition permit wasn't filed until March, 2014.
The case remains under appeal.
[above: Marie Cecile Flageul, Curator: MoSA Bowery, Robin Chadha, CitizenM Chief Marketing Officer]
That pivotal set of court outcomes not only fortified the 5Pointz legacy, but also released VARA from a state of diluted containment within academic journals of discourse. It showed intellectual property lawyers and artists alike that VARA laws were court-enforcible: capable of delivering actual consequences to real defendants.
Today, the spirit of the original graffiti mecca thrives in the 5Pointz Creates Collective, led by 5Pointz spokesperson Marie Cecile Flageul and 5Pointz founder/curator Jonathan "Meres" Cohen.
5Pointz Creates -- no idle collective -- has curated/installed art extensively throughout the metro area. The sites of their projects and events have included Brooklyn Reclaimed (Bushwick, 2015) and All City Express (Randall's Island, 2016). Last year, 5PointzCreates worked with High Line Nine developer Related Companies to bring distinctive aerosol art to a West Chelsea construction site.
Two and a half years ago, Flageul and Cohen were approached by Robin Chadha, Chief Marketing Officer for Netherlands-based hotel chain CitizenM. At the time of Chadha's initial contact, the brand had opened its first hotel in 2008, only eight years prior. The company's first American outpost -- CitizenM Times Square -- had arrived six years later.
Chadha wanted 5Pointz Creates to curate and produce art for the hotel's newest Manhattan location downtown. The site would be the world's tallest modular hotel, slated to welcome guests in 2018. It had been dubbed CitizenM-Bowery.
At an early meeting with 5Pointz Creates's Flageul and Cohen, Chadha opened his laptop computer, showed the pair a schematic of the entire hotel, and asked them to choose a home for their art. The pair selected a vast staircase and stairwell.
That stairwell became the installation site for MoSA Bowery at CitizenM-Bowery, MoSA = Museum of Street Art.
Flageul, an experienced curator, event planner, and regional historian -- she is on the board of the New York City Historical council -- directed the project. In so doing, she considered visual themes that would meander invitingly through the vertical expanse of the 20-floor stairwell.
Ultimately, she lit upon a selection of frozen-moments, personas, words, and quotes. Each would be painted by a different artist and occupy a discrete section of stairwell wall. But MoSA Bowery wouldn't merely be a collection of isolated renderings in parallel-play: each artistic work would be narrative-bound to the next and to the next, unfolding at successive turns down the stairwell as a theme deftly emerged.
The theme? "A Vertical Love Letter To The Lower East Side and the Bowery: At 189 Bowery between Delancey and Spring, this newest CitizenM outpost was perfectly situated for a tribute of such stirring significance.
Spoilers? We'll list a meager handful for now. MoSA Bowery is an art experience, not merely an art exhibit. SOLD urges its readers to walk the exhibit for themselves:
A masterful portrait of Rosario Dawson by Vince Ballentine
A vibrant depiction of RuPaul by California-born, Melbourne-residing artist Elle
A poignant depiction of Bowery rooftops by Jonathan "Meres" Cohen, who curated the original 5Pointz from '02-'13.
The full roster of MoSA Bowery artists: Damien Mitchell, Toofly, Meres One, Danielle Mastrion, Vince Ballentine, SOULS, Sheryo, Nicholai Khan, Noir, Trans1, JERMS, Yok, Zimad, Never, Topaz, ELLE, PYTHON, Cortes, SEE TF, and DJALOUZ.
Throughout MoSA Bowery's two-and-a-half-year installation process, Flageul has been grateful for the generosity-of-spirit shown to 5Pointz Creates and its artists by CitizenM and its Chief Marketing Officer, Robin Chadha.
"Every artist contributor was paid, and every idea we presented was embraced, including producing our original music track," Flageul gushes. "To give us 5,000 square feet of free canvas, full creative freedom in the staircase and on the plaza, Meres's [solo] wall, plus five extra pieces [to comprise a separate, stand-alone installation], and to take on the cost of opening to the public seven days a week is remarkable!"
[Above: Damien Mitchell reflecting]
[above: Marie Cecile Flageul and Jonathan "Meres" Cohen against "Bowery Rebirth" courtyard wall]
[above: "Art Above All" by Cortes]
[Above: "Fun Facts" by Jonathan "Meres" Cohen, 3rd floor]
Visitor Information and Opening Celebration
MoSA Bowery will be FREE and open October 1st to "anyone with an ID," says Flageul. Check in at CitizenM-Bowery's front desk any day of the a week, 10am-4pm. Take the elevator to the 20th floor, then amble downward through MoSA Bowery at your own pace: audio narrative is provided via CitizenM Wi-Fi.
Looking to walk the installation with the perspective of an insider? Register for a guided tour with MoSA Bowery Director Marie Cecile Flageul: information will be posted on the installation's Instagram.
MoSA Bowery opens to the public in October.
But first, a MoSA Bowery opening celebration at CitizenM-Bowery this Thursday, where SOLD will set up pod-casting shop! Listen to it on soldmagny.com starting Monday, September 24th. For some two hours in the early evening tomorrow, SOLD crew members Ronnie Parisella, Erica Stella, and Joanna Pan will conduct interviews with MoSA Bowery's Director [Marie Cecile Flageul], its Lead Artist [Jonathan "Meres" Cohen], CitizenM's Chief Marketing Officer [Robin Chadha], and an exceptional array of MoSA Bowery artists hailing from such far-flung locales as Australia, France, Ecuador...
... and Queens!
Visit MoSA Bowery on Instagram and Facebook today, or treat yourselves to a 'round-the-block get-away at CitizenM-Bowery: a truly gorgeous hotel that prides itself on providing its guests with thoughtfully-curated lifestyle experiences, not just sleeping- and bathing-chambers.
oh, and this never seen before video....
[above: "Making of MoSA" video by Rae Maxwell. Music and lyrics by Rabbi Darkside and the Grand Affair]
Thursday: Don't miss SOLD's EXCLUSIVE coverage of a bonus, 5-piece art installation by Esteban Del Valle, Lady Pink, Meres One, Rubin415, and Don Rimx at CitizenM-Bowery : also brought to you by 5Pointz Creates! Watch for it: words by Erica Stella, photography by Ben Lau (Just-a-Spectator).
"At 5Pointz, a graffiti lovefest is celebrated daily in broad daylight..."
-- Robin Finn, 8/27/2011, The New York Times