The fact that 5Pointz – until this week the most publicly visible art collection in New York City – was created on a canvas of privately owned property is pretty much beside the point.
Art that lives in the public eye is susceptible to a wider critical analysis than art that is displayed in private spaces, and 5Pointz survived and thrived in the gauntlet of public opinion in the way few art collections have. The whole city looked and asked the question “But is it art?” Our answer was a resounding yes, a democratic, landslide victory. That 5Pointz emerged as a nearly universally loved art collection is a testament to its superior quality, and to the fact that it is, indeed, art.
While support for 5Pointz by New York City business and fellow arts institutions seemed far from a hell-raising roar, one Queens business owner has outright refused to be silent on the matter. For a year or more, Josh Bowen, the owner of John Brown Smokehouse and purveyor of some damn delicious BBQ, has been speaking out on behalf 5Pointz on the restaurant’s social media channels and in the press. And Bowen has gone even further, offering 5Pointz artists the back brick wall of John Brown’s outdoor seating area to continue to showcase their work.
I chatted with Bowen briefly about what happened to 5Pointz last week. “They treated the Berlin Wall with more respect than 5Pointz and everyone hated the Berlin Wall,” said Bowen, referencing the fact that chunks of the once reviled wall are now installed in museums and public spaces around the world. As I walked through the newly renovated Queens Museum of Art this past weekend, I couldn’t shake a related thought, “If only they’d carefully dismantled 5Pointz and allowed the art to be installed here.” While I would have far, far preferred for 5Pointz to stand unperturbed, I also couldn’t stomach the idea that valuable art had been outright destroyed instead of preserved.
But let’s not let rumination on art obfuscate the fact that a lot of people are pissed about the fate of 5Pointz, and Josh Bowen is one of those people. He told me that John Brown will be “actively fighting” what happened and speaking out to ensure the public lays blame where blame is due on the politicians who had a role in its takedown. It is my opinion, too, that the long and detailed story of the destruction of 5Pointz is yet to be told, and based on mass public outrage, I hope a journalist or two might take up the mantle of the telling of it.
To memorialize 5Pointz is simply not enough. People like Josh Bowen and so many other outraged Queens residents and New Yorkers at large are making it clear that the story of the untimely, unnecessary destruction of 5Pointz needs to be as public as the art that once graced is walls. Sure it was private property. But much more importantly, it was all of our art.
***Photos were contributed by writer and artist Braden Ruddy. Check out his great site Not A Queens Photo Blog here.