graffiti wall art

Can Graffiti be Classified as Art?

Let’s take a look into the world of graffiti and how it can combine with the world or art in the community. Some people recognise the finer graffiti spray paintings as pieces of art whilst others categorically state there is no place on our streets for any kind of graffiti, and it can never be classed as art. Who is right?

Graffiti is typically created using spray paint on walls and the sides of buildings in city environments. As such, specific examples of graffiti would be assessed as art or not art by the same standards by which a painting would be assessed. For example, a crude tagging involving a person spray painting their name on the hood of your car would no more be art than it would be for a person to sign their name on a canvas using a brush. Or if the ghost of Leonardo da Vinci manifested itself and grabbed a spray paint can to create a work on par with Mona Lisa masterfully on the side of an office block, then that would have the same status as the Mona Lisa, at least in terms of being art or not. Thus, given that graffiti is essentially painting it follows that it is as much art as painting is or is not. In fact, seeing as graffiti involves the very same techniques and mediums as “conventional” painting, the burden of proof would seem to be on those who would deny that graffiti is (or more accurately, can be) art while maintaining that painting is art.

artistic graffiti exampleOne common objection is that graffiti is not art because it is vandalism and hence a criminal act. While it is true that it can be vandalism and a criminal act, these facts would not seem to have a bearing on its status of being art. Most people trying to prevent graffiti are usually only against the art being produced illegally, that is on private property without permission of the owner. The main argument against graffiti is that it is mainly tagging and it has no brains behind it all. None of it has any meaning. It is so called art that is only for the hip- hop community. The mere fact that something is illegal or classified as vandalism hardly seems sufficient to make something fall outside of the realm of art. After all, imagine a state in which music was a criminal act and labeled as a vandalism of the public sound space. It would hardly follow that music would thus cease to be art. As such, this objection fails. Another common objection is that graffiti is crude or simplistic and hence cannot be considered as art. The obvious reply, to quote Aristotle, is that not all graffiti is to be condemned, just that which is crude or simplistic. After all, music would not be considered non-art simply because some musicians create crude or simplistic music. The same should hold for graffiti as well.

Artworks in galleries that are based on graffiti might look good but technically it is not graffiti. There are many reasons why people do graffiti. Some do it because they think it is cool, or to impress others. For some it is to defy authority or become more popular. For others it is a way of expressing anger, hurt, or hate, and for others it is a tribute to their gangs. The question still lingers that whether Graffiti is a form of Art or not.

Banksy is one of the most well known graffiti artists in the UK. His work has, over the years, become an art form in itself, creating a fresh style of design which many people love. His work can be found in many homes as poster prints and on large canvas art. Banksy has helped to bring graffiti to the masses and raised an awareness of street art. But there are various forms of graffiti, ranging from simple swear words spray painted on walls to complex and artistic designs which wow passers by. So whilst we feel graffiti should be classed as art in some respects, not all graffiti work is art.

graffiti wall designspray painted graffiti


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