Sun, Aug 26, 2012 - Page 12 News List

A tale of two cities

Graffiti artists are up in arms over a proposal to tear down 5Pointz, a building in Queens, New York, “taggers” are legally allowed to paint, for luxury apartments

By Sebastian Smith  /  AFP, NEW YORK

While regular New York graffiti artists — many would call them vandals — risk fines and even jail every time they spray walls, the denizens of 5Pointz enjoy a more comfortable existence.

There’s a rebel vibe. “Dear ARTWORLD, when we inherit the EARTH, YOU aren’t invited. Love, MY Generation,” reads one painted slogan.

But the tour groups, corporate team building opportunities, and sales of graffiti-emblazoned baseball caps and other merchandizing, tell another story. Graffiti has become a business.

Banga remembers the thrill of painting illegally — “the adrenalin, the fear of dying all the time” — but at 42 and with children, says, “I don’t do that anymore.”

“I sell canvasses,” he said.

Still, for young street artists, the more elemental lure of graffiti will survive 5Pointz’s disappearance.

“I remember first time I was on a roof I was scared. I cried,” a young man who said his tag was Peal GI, told AFP. “But you get a rush. You’re climbing, you’re breaking the law. It’s wild.”

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