Graffiti – vandalism or art?

Banksy – Kissing Policemen (Brighton)

Being in a relationship with someone who creates amazing pieces of what would be classified as ‘street art’ (although be it on canvases), we often debate whether graffiti is actually art or vandalism. We for the most part disagree on this subject. Firstly I must distinguish between what are teenage rebels let loose with a spray can ‘tagging’ (signatures and rude comments) everything in sight and what is actually considered as murals that brighten up the streets. Everyone is familiar with Banksy who started his now successful career by spraying stencils on random walls in the Bristol area gorilla style. Although according to the law he was defacing public and private property, he has now become a world renowned ‘artist’.

The line between vandalism and street art is such a blur in 21st century Britain that local councils are now unsure what to do with aesthetically pleasing graffiti. Do they get rid of it no matter how talented the creator may be to uphold the law or do they only make examples of those who purely ‘tag’ and write crude messages? If you think about it in the terms of graffiti actually being markings on a wall, then aren’t the prehistoric cave drawings technically graffiti?

Modern graffiti initially started as gangs marking their territory and is likely to be the reason we still now have ‘tagging’ polluting our streets and walls. If you think London graffiti is bad you should see the chilling political statements plastered on walls in Northern Ireland by the IRA. Sectarian morons post images that are intended to intimidate the local community in a bid to stir up animosity between Catholics and Protestants. These are not the only politically motivated images used by street artists as this is the biggest stimulus behind graffiti other than simply criminal defacing of property and the need to share artistic talent.

I have no doubt in my mind that ‘tagging’ is vandalism, however where the graffiti happens to be something beautiful or interesting to look at it then it comes down to location. In my opinion, no matter how amazing a ‘graffiti artist’ may be it is definitely vandalism if you are spraying paint onto someone’s personal property without their permission.

What do you think? Let me know by taking the poll below.

IRA Graffiti




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