Graffiti artists broke into downtown Los Angeles’ Oceanwide Plaza skyscraper development earlier this month and tagged over 27 floors with bright, bold letters. The work was a collaboration between local artists, who spray painted the complex over the course of three days with words like “Dank” and “Amen.”
While the Oceanwide Plaza was meant to be a $1 billion real estate project in downtown L.A., it’s been empty since 2019. According to the Los Angeles Times’ Summer Lin and Robert Gauthier, the plan was to build three neighboring towers that would serve as luxury condominiums and apartments alongside hotel and retail space. However, construction stopped when the Beijing-based developer backing the project ran out of funds.
The towers sit unfinished across from Crypto.com Arena, which recently hosted the Grammy Awards. In many ways, the structure provided a perfect canvas for local artists.
“As much as people are entitled to not like what the graffiti writers do, I would encourage people to respect the effort to use the space that nobody else seems to be caring about right now,” Stefano Bloch, a criminologist at the University of Arizona and former graffiti artist, tells the L.A. Times.
“This was a giant building that a community of people is finding use in,” he adds. “It’s people making use of the things that others neglect or leave behind.”
Artists who broke into Oceanwide Plaza say that the building had light security and that dodging patrol guards was easy, per Hyperallergic’s Matt Stromberg.
“I could see people up on the balcony were tagging and everything,” Daron Burgundy, a street photographer, tells KTLA’s John Fenoglio. “There was a crew on one of the floors, and people were coming out and getting detained by LAPD and getting cited and released. People were still in there tagging while the cops were down here.”
Last week, police announced on X (formerly Twitter) that “additional security measures” would be implemented in the future and that “the graffiti will be removed.”
The street art has renewed interest in the halted Oceanwide Plaza development. Kevin de León, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, urged the building owners to take action regarding the unoccupied property, and Nella McOsker, president and chief executive of the Central City Association, called for help.
“This is a representation of the very real neglect that [downtown Los Angeles] has gone through over the past decade,” says McOsker in a statement. “While we appreciate LAPD’s swift response, we urge the city to take steps to address this blighted property before it becomes a further nuisance.”
For the artists involved, spray painting the structure was a way to infuse life into a deteriorating area of the city.
“This building has needed love for years,” graffiti artist Aker, who helped tag the towers, tells Hyperallergic. “If the owners aren’t doing anything about it, the streets of L.A. are happy to make something out of it.”