Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

People are divided with their view on graffiti and it is for a very good reason.

Dictionary loosely defines graffiti as writing or drawings scribbled on a wall or other surface in a public place. Ancient Romans and Greeks were, so far, the earliest creators when they wrote their names and protest poems on buildings.

However, the graffiti as what we know today actually first appeared in Philadelphia in the early 1960s. Early writings on the walls and subways was called “tags” because they were mostly names. By mid seventies, most subways were completely covered in writings or paintings sprayed by “taggers”.

When Graffiti is Art

For the creators, graffiti is a form of self-expression. Mostly co-exist with hip-hop and skateboarding, nobody in these communities is ever going to see it as vandalism. Artists perceive their works as a medium to communicate and some even could find hope within, just like Macabre artists

These days, people can live off by creating graffiti. Agencies specializing in managing street art commissions are by no means rare. In the academia fields, the art is studied with respect and utmost attention. 

“The grammar of graffiti – its media and techniques – is now the basis of some of the most imaginative, beautiful and poignant street art out there, all with the blessing of property owners and communities.”

Vans

When it is Vandalism

Alex Harvey, co-founder and project manager at Blank Walls, believes the stigma against graffiti was born after “the birth of advertising”. The movement first came from grass-root and possesses the ability to revitalize public places. Advertisement, on the other hand, only focus on capitalizing off street art, which is counter-productive to what the movement really is.

Graffiti without authenticity, thus, loses the self-express element and subsequently the right to be perceived as art. 

Another consideration is whether the graffiti desecrates or destroys public property. Many artists believe public places are the best place to make social and political statements. To some degree, this view holds its truth.

Yet, when it becomes a nuisance that disrupts people’s activities, then it will inevitable receive scrutiny.

Overall, the attitudes towards graffiti have changed for the past decades. Big cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin embrace these drawings to attract tourists and treat them as cultural assets. On the other hand, public properties vandalism is also something most countries struggle to regulate. 

Whether it is art or vandalism, surely the reality of graffiti is somewhere in between. Context and content matter!

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