Interesting local story that raises interesting questions about the nature of art and how society views different media. Though it has gained more widespread appreciation, graffiti is still not viewed as other art forms are. Also interesting to note that the law protects art of “recognized stature” and that term requires interpretation and depends greatly on what society in general defines as art.
The case marked the first time a court has been asked to determine whether graffiti — with its ephemeral nature — should be considered art protected under federal law, according to a court opinion. It weighed a property owner’s rights against the rights of visual artists — in a city where the powerful real estate and art worlds are constantly at odds.
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In the lawsuit, the artists alleged that their rights had been violated under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). The case was closely watched by artists, copyright experts, and property owners alike because it is extremely rare for VARA cases to come to trial. The law protects works of “recognized stature”—but even experts admit the term is vague and subject to broad interpretation. In this case, the judge seemed convinced that the now-erased graffiti mecca was of historic importance. Art expert Renee Vara, who testified in support of the artists, noted that the decision was significant because it recognized that “artists can be self-taught or academically trained.”