Writers Weigh In On 190 Bowery Keeping the NEKST Piece Now That Most of the Graffiti Has Been Buffed
The writing's on the wall and it's staying
Photos: Bucky Turco
Most of the graffiti that has covered the Germania Bank building at 190 Bowery is now gone. Back in June, Mass Appeal reported on new building owner Aby Rosen’s plans to buff all of the graffiti from the buildings exterior surface, while preserving a piece by Sean “NEKST” Griffin, who passed away unexpectedly in 2012.
Although Rosen spent $55 million for the building and was well within his right to do whatever he wanted with the property, his management company first contacted artist Tristan Eaton through a mutual business acquaintance and asked him to do a walk around the exterior and survey the existing graffiti. Eaton explained the significance of the NEKST piece and then helped connect the developer to the legendary MSK crew — which NEKST was down with — and writer ASKEW, who agreed to help organize its upkeep.
The historic landmark building has long been a magnet for street art and graffiti. An ideal canvas, the bank building is in a high traffic/high-profile spot, guaranteeing exposure. The decades of paint layers, and old signatures still visible from the last millennium were an open invitation to contribute to the landscape, and confirmation that these walls never get buffed. The ornate architectural design makes the building easy to scale, some the writing on the façade reached as high as the 3rd floor. Prior to the ongoing renovations efforts, 190 Bowery may very well have been the most heavily tagged building in all of Manhattan.
Whatever motivated Rosen to keep the NEKST, it’s unprecedented thinking for a New York real estate developer and so we caught up with some of graffiti top practitioners to ask them their thoughts on the decision to allow the NEKST piece to run indefinitely.
“For as long as I can remember the former Jay Maisel residence has been pirated territory for the guerrilla art enthusiast. Post sale, I personally lost a handful of recent street works in the purge and clean up of the castle. I’m pleased to see they’ve arranged to let the memory of “Nekst” remain on the building’s facade. Hopefully the powers that be, who pull the strings at 190 Bowery, have let his name remain with the purest of intents. If it has a long-term capitalist type twist tied to it, we’ll all be shaking our heads in the near future”.
“It is an unexpected gesture. It is nice to see the value that we share in our work between ourselves shared with this building owner.”
“The owner is someone who respects the culture. This also proves the culture has come a long way.”
“NEKST always kept it 100. Driven to catch spots most wouldn’t attempt to hit with solid fills. True to the game. Keeping his joint up on Bowery is a testament to his legacy as he earned that spot there and as an inspiration to his generation.”
“It’s fitting that they paid tribute to the graffiti history of the building and choosing the NEKST piece is a perfect monument to the history because he was a graffiti writer’s graffiti writer. It also goes a long way to show how graffiti itself as an art form can be embraced by people we sometimes see as the enemy — the big businesses, the real estate developers — it shows progress.”
“Real graffiti will always live on! Rest in peace NEKST.”
“Obviously the landlord is a sensitive soul who respects the dead. How they have insight on who NEKST is is quite amazing. Don’t sleep on the graffiti grapevine… word gets around.”
“Maybe this is the NEKST stage in graffiti? Where a building owner sees some redeeming quality in even the rawest of graffiti and lets it stay. Very cool.”
“From urban blight to urban flight, whatever the reason is we have to love the social impact graffiti artists have made on society. We question the motives of some and we praise the stand of others but no matter what nothing makes me more happy to see my brother shine on… wRite In Power my brother I miss you daily.”