Artists sue Memphis over erased murals

Artists sue Memphis over erased murals

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The fight over public art in Memphis is headed to federal court.

A New York firm is suing the city over the much-publicized murals at Lamar and Willett. The firm is asking for the artists to be reimbursed for their work that was painted over by the city. The firm also seeks an injunction to protect other images.

"The lawsuit is actually for the artists; it's not for Paint Memphis," Paint Memphis Executive Director Karen Golightly said.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Memphis federal court, names 12 mostly out-of-town artists in the complaint against the city. It accuses the city of violating the Visual Artists Rights Act.

It is the latest development in a polarizing feud over the artwork that has drawn the ire of Memphis City Council members. Those city leaders deemed some of the murals distasteful--back in March, the council enacted a 120-day moratorium on public art.

"Part of it was that some people in Memphis found some of the murals offensive. Some members of City Council found some of the murals offensive, but then it became much more complicated when the city came out and unilaterally started painting over some of the project," Golightly said.

In February the city's public works department buffed the wrong murals. The lawsuit says a "beige patrol used for cleaning graffiti carried out the attack and mutilated the images."

The city later acknowledged the murals were buffed in error.

When asked about the lawsuit Friday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he could not comment because the case was under litigation.

Golightly said she warned city officials against tampering with the artwork before they buffed over the murals.

The lawyer representing the artists just won a related case in February in Brooklyn, New York. In that case, a developer buffed over the murals of 21 graffiti artists. The artists received $6.7 million in recompense.

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