Graffiti – the endless debate of art vs crime

Considering the growing popularity of graffiti, be it its reoccurring place in pop culture or its wide use as a medium for self-expression and artistic talent, graffiti is a form of art to be reckoned with. Graffiti is a debatable form of art – most people don’t particularly perceive it as art. Nevertheless, thousands of auctioneers and collectors are ready to bid millions of dollars in order to add another artistic graffiti piece to their collection.

We see graffiti all around in our everyday life in the big city. My primary school, for instance, has always resembled a graffiti scrapbook. The headteacher of my high school gave one of my classmates (a striving graffiti artist, per se) the opportunity to do a proper official artwork on the front part of the school.

It cannot be denied that most people are prejudicial when it comes to graffiti, thinking of it not as art but as an act of vandalism or a way to mark the regions of different gangs. The very same people neglect the fact that writing or drawing on walls has been around for millions of years – Romans wrote on the walls of buildings they conquered and cave men drew illustrations on cave walls.

Nowadays, graffiti has become a work of art, where young artists come out of the shadows and use graffiti as a form of self-expression. Some artists are angry and take their anger out on the walls, others are ordinary vandals but there is a third group, which tries to convey a certain idea or message in their work. Most usually, graffiti is made as colourful as possible to take us away from the greying reality of life and I dare to say that they succeed in it.

Remember Obama’s 2008 Hope campaign poster? The iconic portrait of the future US president that became part of pop culture and ended up on t-shirts and tank tops was created by Shepard Fairey. Apart from being a graphic designer and illustrator, he was primary known as a graffiti writer. There are a few notable street artists such as the UK-based Banksy for instance or Chris Nunez from the two US tattoo realities Miami Ink and Ink Masters. You cannot have a long career as a writer as graffiti is illegal. They are usually spray painted on private buildings or on state property, which inevitably offends the law. This is one of the main reasons, along with the popular misconception that graffiti represents gang activity, why most of the graffiti artists (graffiti writers) have to stay anonymous and avoid the police.

In my own humble opinion, if the art is tastefully done, it doesn’t offend anybody and it is not stamped on a governmental building or a hospital, for example, I don’t see any harm. Come on, you have to give props to the writers – if they can create something as amazing as the pieces from the gallery bellow with just a couple of spray cans on the streets, subjected to the weather and not to mention the police, they deserve respect.

Imagine this scenario – you’re on your way to work, the weather’s gloomy and life seems grayer than ever and then suddenly you spot a colourful cartoony mural, won’t you feel a bit better? It would certainly earn my smile, as it will make feel a little bit of hope that the world isn’t as bad as I thought.

In conclusion – love them or hate them, graffiti is here to stay and might hopefully one day become a recognised art form 😉 In the meantime, it is encouraging to see developments in the area such as street art exhibitions at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art or articles from the likes of 🙂

I would appreciate your comments and opinions on the matter. What’s your take on graffiti? Are they art or a crime? Do you appreciate it and its writers?

Here are my own graffiti shots 😉 We definitely don’t lack graffiti in Sofia, huh? 😀


2 thoughts on “Graffiti – the endless debate of art vs crime

  1. Very good article Anabela 🙂 xx My opinion is similar to yours 😉 I am against vandalism and illegal graffiti on government buildings etc. However, I am definitely up for a nice, colourful graffiti made by talented people. It makes our daily routine brighter and life becomes more beautiful. In my opinion graffiti is a perfect way of expressing feelings. Sometimes this kind of art has some deep meaning and sometimes it just helps to create public places more friendly. In order to break negative thinking and stereotypes, there is a need to put more effort by the legal parties to see positive sides of graffiti and allow artists to make our streets nicer.
    Thanks for the pictures! 🙂 good job xxx

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