Is Graffiti Art Or Vandalism?

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The question of whether graffiti is art or vandalism is one I see often, and usually from students working on school reports… and have fairly strong opinions about. This is really a two part question: Part 1. Is Graffiti Art? and Part 2. Is Graffiti Vandalism?

Part 1 – Is Graffiti Art?

I think it’s first important to understand that “art” itself is tough to define. But if you move past formal definitions, art is typically an expression of oneself or a message that an artist is trying to give to the viewer… and it may or may not appeal to other people. Others think art is perhaps an expression of the artist using colors, textures, sounds, etc. to convey the message. Let’s look at a few of pieces of well known art.

1. The Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci. It is painted on a piece of wood and is framed. Why is this art? Shading, the depth, the landscape, the enigmatic smile, etc. Would this be art if it were painted on a brick wall on a side street in Italy? Of course. What makes it art is the picture, not the medium.

2. Guernica by Pablo Picasso. This may be Picasso’s most well known piece of art. Painted mural size on a piece of canvas. Of course, this is art. Would it be art if Picasso painted directly on a wall on the side of a street? Yes. What if he did it without permission? Still art… but illegally painted. You like it?… well it doesn’t matter if you do or not, it’s still art.

3. Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michangelo. It’s art and it’s on a ceiling.

Graffiti art is a style of art. It “fits” the bill to be defined as such and often expresses a very distinct message from the artist (as an example, check out the political messages of Banksy ). Artwork that is painted in this style is absolutely considered art. It can be painted on wood, on canvas, on ceilings, on brick walls, on sidewalks, etc. It is still art regardless of the medium.

Part 2 – Is Graffiti Vandalism? If the street art (graffiti) is painted legally, meaning on property owned by the artist or with permission from the owner, then it is legal street art.

If the street art is painted illegally, meaning on property not owned by the artist, and without permission, then it is still art… but the artist has committed the crime of vandalism.

So, if DaVinci, Picasso, and Michaelangelo were hanging out on 115th Street one Tuesday night and throw up the Mona Lisa, the Guernica, and the Sistine Chapel art work on the side of a laundromat… It is art. But it’s also vandalism. It can be both… it is not an “either / or” question.

Hope this helps you guys if you’re doing a report on “Graffiti Art or Vandalism” or “Is It Street Art or Vandalism”.


Source by Mike D Johnson I

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