The six artists whose work formerly graced the exterior of The Stud have sued the building’s new owners over the Pride Week scrubbing of the building’s facade.
It was certainly in bad taste and kind of a 'fuck you' move when the new owners of the building that was formerly The Stud chose Pride Week 2020 as the time to paint over The Stud’s murals — adding additional insult to the injury of the pandemic closure of a beloved LGBTQ venue, and an essentially canceled SF Pride. Now a judge may rule that it wasn’t just bad taste and rude timing, but a full-on illegal act. SFGate reports that the artists who created those murals have sued the new building owner over that “whitewashing” in a legal filing against Pacifica-based property owner City Commercial Investments, LLC, who bought the building in 2016 and essentially drove The Stud out with an enormous rent increase.
You probably recall the outcry in June when the six exterior murals by Xara Thustra, Monica Canilao, Jeremy Novy, Ellery Bakaitis, Hailey Gaiser and Susan Greene were infuriatingly painted over in what the Instagrammer below describes as “a boring ass beige color.”
The unwelcome cover-up was soon covered up itself with some new subversive graffiti, which is no replacement for the cultural loss, and has since been covered again with boring ass new-owner beige.
The legal filing is available online, with two LA-based intellectual property firms representing the artists. The lawsuit decries that City Commercial Investments “inexplicably whitewashed and destroyed a number of iconic murals that graced the building, causing great anguish in the community.” It also asserts that “Defendants’ choice to destroy the Murals, without warning, and during the historic 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Pride festival, demonstrated their clear disdain for, and degradation of the Artists, and the San Francisco LGBTQ community.”
There is, in fact, legal precedent that muralists can sue the new owners of a building if they destroy the murals without notice. There’s a state law known as the California Art Preservation Act as well as the federal Visual Artists Rights Act. A 2018 decision referencing that law awarded a Queens graffiti collective $6.7 million when their works were painted over after a building sale, and an LA muralist won a similar $1.1 million settlement in 2008.
No dollar amounts are mentioned in the lawsuit, but the plaintiffs do ask to be awarded “damages, including statutory damages, and future damages, that Plaintiffs have sustained.”
The murals were almost exactly three years old when painted over, and The Stud has of course vacated the space during the pandemic, though its ownership collective continues to produce “Drag Alive” and other online events on their Twitch channel.
Images: Darwin Bell