All the Graffiti On 190 Bowery Getting Buffed, Except for NEKST (RIP)

Photos by: Tod Seelie

For decades, the Germania Bank Building at 190 Bowery in Manhattan has been covered in graffiti, establishing it as a symbolic monument against the forces of gentrification; the last holdout in a neighborhood (and city) that’s being developed and inevitably whitewashed in the process.

But by this weekend, Mass Appeal has exclusively learned that all those layers of spray paint and wheat paste will be removed by owner Aby Rosen with the exception of one: a longstanding piece by NEKST, a graffiti artist who died several years ago.


Sean “NEKST” Griffin, a world renowned and respected writer, passed away unexpectedly in 2012. The prolific artist painted his name in cities all across the United States and is believed to have tagged the high profile Bowery spot sometime in 2007. And he did it more than once.

NEKST’s brother VIZIE, who’s also a graffiti writer, gave a brief history of the piece. “He did it twice,” writes VIZIE via email. “Once with a different sketch. It got buffed and he came back and hit again. That’s the version that has been there since.” Over the years, his MSK brethren have maintained the piece, renovating it as recently as April when one of the letters was buffed, which could explain why Rosen has decided to keep this one aerosol remnant. It also shows the power that the graffiti-driven arts community has, even over a multi-million dollar piece of real estate. After all, would you want to piss off his army of supporters?

VIZIE once discussed how much his brother loved 190 Bowery:

This was one of Sean’s all time favorite spots. He had actually painted it one time before this outline. When it was removed, he repainted it almost immediately. At one point he even had the Spring Street side with a big SEMZ block. Throughout the years he had to defend it, always getting clipped or gone over, usually by people who didn’t know any better, sometimes by people who should. No matter where he was living at the time, he would make sure when he was in NY, it would get a fresh coat of paint. After Sean passed our friends have helped with the maintenance. Now, it seems like it’s on its last legs.”

The six-story landmark was sold to Rosen two years ago for $55 million by photographer Jay Maisel, who had lived in the 35,000 square foot property for decades, after purchasing it for a paltry $106,000 in 1966. Since the sale, Rosen has maintained that the retail tenant who rents out the massive first floor space would have the final say as to whether the graffiti stays or goes.

Mass Appeal reached out to creative house Great Bowery, the building’s main tenant to get their take on Rosen’s decision to buff the piece. “We would have much preferred the graffiti stay,” writes COO Melissa Kelly, “however we are really grateful that the landlord agreed to save the culturally significant NEKST piece.”

Of course, once the surface is cleaned, it will likely attract even more writers.

When asked about the real estate mogul’s decision to keep the NEKST, VIZIE simply wrote: “The whole thing is weird, but I’ll take it.”

Related Posts


Writers Weigh In On 190 Bowery Keeping the NEKST Piece Now That Most of the Graffiti Has Been Buffed


Rare Banksy Footage Bubbles Up


QUEEN ANDREA, An Artist With Graffiti Roots, Paints Entire Square in Brooklyn


John Boyega Immortalized As Street Art For Classic German Play Promo


Banksy Surprises School Kids With Fiery Mural


Latest News

nas-rapture Film


Mass Appeal’s new Netflix series premieres this weekend at SXSW
same Hot Takes

It Was a Type Beat Year

The search for something new in a year of sameness
shea serrano Features

Shea Serrano Quit His Teaching Job, Now He Has Two Best Sellers and Two TV Shows

"It is funny to just walk in and just be a Mexican, because I’m usually the only one there"
mf doom Features

The 10 Best DOOM Songs of 2017, Ranked

Even after 'The Missing Notebook Rhymes' went missing, the masked villain still caused havoc
worst cops Features

The Worst Cops of 2017

The hall of shame
donald trump Features

32 Songs That Dissed Donald Trump in 2017

The "F.D.T." wave
lil peep News

R.I.P. Gus, Long Live Lil Peep

Resisting nostalgia at the speed of the internet
88 rising Features

Sean Miyashiro of 88rising Connected the Cultures

With 1.25 million YouTube subscribers and a gang of talent, 88rising controlled the new East-West flow
eminem Video

Eminem By the Numbers

You may know how many f*cks he gives, but what about the other crucial figures from Slim Shady's career?
tape Features

Why 2017 Was Rap’s Year of the Tape

Seven labels explain why they're still rewinding cassettes back
safdie brothers Features

The Safdie Brothers Got Gritty as 2017’s Filmmakers to Watch

"You might not like the feeling that you're feeling, but you can still be entertained by that feeling."
best albums Features

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

The essential sounds that defined one very strange year
hey arnold Humor

Everything About Christmas is Awful, Except the ‘Hey Arnold!’ Special

The one redeeming thing about this trash holiday
combat-jack Features

Knowledge Darts Vol. 32: Winter Solstice

I never got to say thank you
jeezy Video

Open Space: Jeezy

"You can’t just crush a diamond with a rock. It’s hard, it’s tough. But it’s bright."

Rhythm Roulette: Boi-1da

The wait is over