Friday, October 10, 2014

New gallery allows New Yorkers to "buy" street art

New York City is home to some of the world's most unique and impressive street art. Housed on the sides of buildings and in the subway, street art infiltrates the lives of city-dwellers publicly and for free.

However, a new gallery in NYC called Wall(m)-art aims to make these public works privately owned.

For a mere $150, anyone over the age of 18 can browse the online collection and purchase his/her own work or have a customized work made. Instead of taking the work home, the buyer of the art will be rewarded with a beautiful frame, a personalized plaque and a proof of ownership title.

The legality of the operation is fuzzy, but the self-described "gallery and auction house" has already sold a few pieces in Brooklyn.

Whether or not the artists or building owners are awarded a cut of the profit is unclear. However, the website does make careful efforts to explain that once the purchase has been made, no refunds will be offered. Wall(m)-art also states that while they cannot offer any refunds, they are "off the hook" regardless of what happens to the paintings or laws after the purchase is made.

Although this particular "gallery" hints at some sketchy behavior, the idea of buying or selling street art raises questions about art in the public domain that are worth considering.

Auctioning and framing graffiti in New York works off the claim that street art is, indeed, art and not just vandalism.  However, are there any rights of ownership to a work that is inherently breaking the rules through its existence? Does the art belong to the artist, the building owner, the passerby patrons, or does the art belong to a third-party who makes a stake and auctions the piece out?

Creating works to exist in the public domain implies a sense of communal ownership, but this means that the artists often goes unpaid and unrecognized for their efforts. Yet, with Wall(m)-art's tricky fine print and murky business practices, New York may have to consider new legislation outlining ownership of art commissioned illegally in the public domain.

Sources: PSFK, Wall(m)-Art
All images from Wall(m)-Art website.

No comments: