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Graffiti in the sky: NY artists make skyscraper their studio

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/15/2017 By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press
Joseph Meloy, an artist from Manhattan's Lower Eastside, works on a hieroglyphic-like art he calls "confetti motif" on large windows on the unoccupied 69th floor window of 4 World Trade Center, overlooking the footprints of the old World Trade Center twin towers and facing their new replacement, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I have a personal connection to World Trade Center," said Meloy, who use to visit often as a child. "My aunt and grandfather worked at the World Trade Center. To be able to do something in this space is gratifying." He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Joseph Meloy, an artist from Manhattan's Lower Eastside, works on a hieroglyphic-like art he calls "confetti motif" on large windows on the unoccupied 69th floor window of 4 World Trade Center, overlooking the footprints of the old World Trade Center twin towers and facing their new replacement, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I have a personal connection to World Trade Center," said Meloy, who use to visit often as a child. "My aunt and grandfather worked at the World Trade Center. To be able to do something in this space is gratifying." He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — On one of the highest floors of a Lower Manhattan office tower, New York street artists have spent the past year spray-painting and splashing their graffiti, murals and other wild creations across pristine walls, windows, floors and ceilings.

Sean Sullivan, who goes by the moniker "Layer Cake," stands next to his graffiti-style artwork, a collaborative piece he created with the input of other artists on the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Sullivan's father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt in the attack. One of Sullivan's works includes a figure in a bomb suit to represent his father. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month.(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Sean Sullivan, who goes by the moniker "Layer Cake," stands next to his graffiti-style artwork, a collaborative piece he created with the input of other artists on the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Sullivan's father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt in the attack. One of Sullivan's works includes a figure in a bomb suit to represent his father. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month.(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

But no, it isn't vandalism.

Miguel Ovalle, whose artist name is "Dizmology," works in the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, preparing material for his sculpture that will showcase with other artists' works, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I consider the work that I do installation architectural art, using typography, using the written language of words in an urban environment," said Ovalle, who won a national artist competition at the prestigious Art Basel Miami in 2012. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Miguel Ovalle, whose artist name is "Dizmology," works in the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, preparing material for his sculpture that will showcase with other artists' works, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I consider the work that I do installation architectural art, using typography, using the written language of words in an urban environment," said Ovalle, who won a national artist competition at the prestigious Art Basel Miami in 2012. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Developer Larry Silverstein allowed the 50 artists to turn 34,000 square-feet of office space that normally would rent for about a quarter of a million dollars a month into their own sprawling canvas. Multi-colored graffiti and other works by sculptors and painters explode with images of fantasy and reality, tragedy and comedy.

Miguel Ovalle, whose artist name is "Dizmology," works in the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, preparing material for his sculpture that will showcase with other artists' works, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I consider the work that I do installation architectural art, using typography, using the written language of words in an urban environment," said Ovalle, who won a national artist competition at the prestigious Art Basel Miami in 2012. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Miguel Ovalle, whose artist name is "Dizmology," works in the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, preparing material for his sculpture that will showcase with other artists' works, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I consider the work that I do installation architectural art, using typography, using the written language of words in an urban environment," said Ovalle, who won a national artist competition at the prestigious Art Basel Miami in 2012. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

At 86, Silverstein is still a force in the rebirth of the World Trade Center site devastated by the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 2,600 people in New York.

Risa Tochigi, whose artist name is "Boogie Rez," sits next to her sculpture installation on the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Tochigi, who works with a partner as one half of "Boogie Rez," said her sculpture "is actually my illustration as in a wood piece" which fuses her love for African and B-Boy dance forms. She is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Risa Tochigi, whose artist name is "Boogie Rez," sits next to her sculpture installation on the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Tochigi, who works with a partner as one half of "Boogie Rez," said her sculpture "is actually my illustration as in a wood piece" which fuses her love for African and B-Boy dance forms. She is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

"Here I am, an old fogy, but I wanted to do something exciting and different, and to provide a sense of beauty, a sense of peace, in an otherwise difficult world," he says.

Sean Sullivan, who goes by the moniker "Layer Cake," leaves after making last minute enhancements to his graffiti-style artwork, right, on a wall inside the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Sullivan's father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt in the attack. Sullivan includes a figure in a bomb suit to represent his father. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Sean Sullivan, who goes by the moniker "Layer Cake," leaves after making last minute enhancements to his graffiti-style artwork, right, on a wall inside the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Sullivan's father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt in the attack. Sullivan includes a figure in a bomb suit to represent his father. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

His 72-floor tower, 4 World Trade Center, was the first to rise on the 16-acre site a dozen years after the attacks. Now, the unoccupied 69th floor is covered in colors, squiggles, lyrics, faces and sculpted forms. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning views of the 1,776-foot One World Trade Center, the Hudson River and the memorial reflection pools where the twin towers once stood.

=Sean Sullivan, who goes by the moniker "Layer Cake," makes a last minute enhancement to his graffiti-style artwork on the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Sullivan's father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt in the attack. Sullivan includes a figure in a bomb suit to represent his father. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press =Sean Sullivan, who goes by the moniker "Layer Cake," makes a last minute enhancement to his graffiti-style artwork on the unoccupied 69th floor of 4 World Trade Center, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. Sullivan's father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt in the attack. Sullivan includes a figure in a bomb suit to represent his father. He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The new tower's top 11 floors, including the art-filled space, have been leased by Spotify, the Stockholm-based music-streaming company that is moving into other floors but hasn't yet decided how to incorporate the artworks into its corporate style.

Joseph Meloy, an artist from Manhattan's Lower Eastside, creates a hieroglyphic-like art he calls "confetti motif" on large windows on the unoccupied 69th floor window of 4 World Trade Center, overlooking the footprints of the old World Trade Center twin towers and facing their new replacement, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I have a personal connection to World Trade Center," said Meloy, who use to visit often as a child. "My aunt and grandfather worked at the World Trade Center. To be able to do something in this space is gratifying." He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) © The Associated Press Joseph Meloy, an artist from Manhattan's Lower Eastside, creates a hieroglyphic-like art he calls "confetti motif" on large windows on the unoccupied 69th floor window of 4 World Trade Center, overlooking the footprints of the old World Trade Center twin towers and facing their new replacement, Thursday March 30, 2017, in New York. "I have a personal connection to World Trade Center," said Meloy, who use to visit often as a child. "My aunt and grandfather worked at the World Trade Center. To be able to do something in this space is gratifying." He is among a group of artists offered free use of 34,000 square feet of office space that normally would rent for about quarter of a million dollars a month. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

"It is our intention to keep as much of the art as possible," said Spotify spokesman Graham James.

The free-standing works are the property of the artists who created them, at no charge.

A 9/11 tribute called "In Bloom" by David Uda is a 20-foot circle on the floor painted with 2,606 flowers in memory of the dead.

Sean Sullivan has a personal connection to the site; his father was a detective with the city police bomb squad who lost his best friend on 9/11 and was himself hurt. His shield number is highlighted in Sullivan's mural, "Beautiful Cleanup."

David Hollier sprinkled lyrics from the Broadway musical "Hamilton" into his "$10 Bill," which looks over the graveyard at Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

And Ron English, who is known as "The Godfather of Street Art," brought the streets into the studio in the sky for his "No Brain No Pain," which features reddish brain tissue fashioned into a boxing glove.

Silverstein Properties' chief marketing officer Dara McQuillan discovered the artists through a Lower Manhattan art shop called the World Trade Gallery where he had some photographs framed. There, he saw the work of some of the artists who were then invited into the Silverstein property.

While the skyscraper studio is not open to the public, it has exposed artists to visiting gallery owners and dealers.

"Every little bit helps," says Miguel Ovalle, whose revolving, spaceship-like sculpture stands in an open area on the 69th floor.

Sullivan, the mural artist, says project participants are getting a big payoff.

"All the promotion and marketing is worth gold to us, plus we need a place to paint; that's payment enough."

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