In recent art world news, following last month’s federal district court ruling that a New York City developer violated the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”) when he demolished well known graffiti space, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, the 5Pointz graffiti artists recently requested that the developer pay their attorneys’ fees totaling $2.6 million. In last month’s ruling, the judge ordered the developer to pay $6.75 million in damages to the graffiti artists for his willful violation of VARA. Our recent coverage of the aerosol art litigation can be found on the Art Law blog here.
As an amendment to the US Copyright Act, VARA’s dictate that courts “may . . . award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party” covers the 5Pointz case.
The 5Pointz artists argue that they should be reimbursed for fighting a case that was “unprecedented in both its scope and its subject matter,” and one that “stands to shape the history of art itself in the United States.”
The plaintiffs should receive [fees] in order to encourage other attorneys to assume the risk of fighting for the cherishing and preservation of public art in the United States and to fully compensate the plaintiff attorneys for their path-breaking work and substantial assumption of litigation risks and costs on behalf of the large group of plaintiff artists[.]”
With a requested total $2.6 million in attorneys’ fees from the 5Pointz litigation, one may or may not regard such high amount as “reasonable” to justify an award to the artists.