When 5Pointz was painted over on Nov. 19, it broke the hearts of street artists and art lovers alike.
The harsh white and gray paint that was hastily rolled onto the building’s facade to cover up hundreds of murals, tags and aerosol art took away one of the few places graffiti artists could legally produce work.
Whether Jerry Wolkoff and the rest of G&M Realty had the right to paint over decades worth of art to make room for a luxury development was not what the artists cared about. Their home had been taken from them and there was no justifying that.
Jeffrey Leder, the founder and owner of the Jeffrey Leder Gallery, said he never really considered 5Pointz during its heyday.
“It was there and I liked seeing it,” he said.
It wasn’t until he woke up to the stark “makeunder” that he truly began thinking about the old warehouse and how much it meant, not only to the artists, but to the Long Island City community.
“The more I learned and the more photographs I saw, the more I knew we had to do a show,” Leder said.
The gallery owner partnered with 5Pointz founder Meres One and representative Marie Cecile-Flageul to curate “Whitewash,” a reactionary exhibit to the loss of the aerosol art mecca.
“Marie said she wanted it to be exclusively the artists’ reactions and interpretations of the whitewash,” Leder said. “She said it would be the first and last time they would present art on the matter and once the show was done, they would not revisit the incident again.”
The show opened on April 5 and hundreds of people lined up down the block to take in the work and pay their respects to 5Pointz.
“It was like an Irish funeral,” Leder said. “There was sadness but also a lot of fond memories being shared.”
Having “Whitewash” in Leder’s gallery is particularly appropriate. When the building was painted over, the artists, particularly Meres One, were essentially kicked out of their home away from home. The Jeffrey Leder Gallery — located within the art collector’s home — turned into something of a foster home for the orphaned artists.
It was strange to walk into Leder’s home and see street art on canvas and paper as opposed to concrete and brick. It gave off almost a melancholy feel that, had the community not been so familiar with the featured artists, may not have existed.
Meres One’s pieces in particular are heartbreaking.
One shows 5Pointz at sunset. At first glance, it is a straight replica of what the street art mecca looked like before it was painted over but a closer look shows that the Flushing resident altered each piece slightly so that instead of the artists’ tags, the words read “Greed” or “Art Murder.”
It has a chilling effect.
“‘Whitewash’ is an obvious requiem for 5Pointz the building but also may be the beginning of a rebirth of 5Pointz the community and its true core: the people,” Flageul wrote in the exhibit description. “The works in ‘Whitewash’ aspire to such: Laying feelings on canvas and letting go of the pain, the show brings together artworks that can be interpreted as confession, lessons or reflection but also aspirations and hopes.”
What will become of the artist community is unclear. The apparent and strong connection the creative individuals share makes it hard to believe that 5Pointz will ever truly disappear.
The fact that such a large crowd can be drawn even five months after the warehouse walls were painted over shows how powerful a hold 5Pointz had on the art community and Long Island City as a whole.