Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Graffiti – an Art or a Crime?

Graffiti is a pretty big thing in New Zealand. Under every bridge, in every hard to get to place, It’s everywhere! But the question that keeps coming up: Is it art? There isn’t a clear yes or no answer to that question, but there are many different opinions and theories on the subject. What I am going to say is that there isn't a clear yes or no answer because the answer is yes and yes.

Now many snobby classical artist and those who appreciate their art, would usually say that it is not art. They would say the same things about graffiti that they said about Impressionism, Abstract and Cubism. They would say that it is not art, and that only their way of doing things is really art. In fact art doesn’t have rules, you can’t have rules. If art had rules it would be a science. The only reason art ever does have rules, is so people can break them. So, that means that graffiti is therefore art, not necessarily art in the way we think of it, but still art.

So that isn’t the problem then. The problem people have with graffiti (or the only problem reasonable people should have with graffiti), is that it can be destructive. The fact that people create their art on other people’s private property is the problem. This is the vandalism part of it, this is the crime part of it. This big argument that is going on, hasn’t reached a solution because the people on “opposing sides” of the argument, aren’t actually on the same argument. They are arguing different things. One side is argueing that graffiti is an art form, and others are arguing that it is vandalism. They are bot right, but they are taking about different things. In reality, both these groups are extremely narrow minded.

Neither of them is looking at the big picture. Those who are saying it is art, are overlooking the fact, that usually where they do their art is on people public property. And those people generally don’t want that art on their fence. However, the people complaining that graffiti isn’t art,are overlooking the fact that is still art. Even if it is somewhere it shouldn't be. If Leonardo da Vinchi painted the Mona Lisa on their fence, they would complain calling it vandalism. But because the Mona Lisa was painted on a canvas it is considered one of the greatest painting in history. Now I am not saying that people should go inside and do their graffiti on a big canvas. That would no longer be graffiti (or street art if you prefer the term). So how do we fix this problem? It’s simple really.

Many city's in Australia have attempted to stop vandalism by providing specific walls, dedicated to street art, where graffiti artists can go and do their work without breaking the law, or damaging property. By doing that, street art can continue in its age old traditions.

So, this argument is ludicrous and narrow-minded, Graffiti is art. But it is art in the wrong place. If both the ‘artists’ and the ‘victims’ opened their eyes a little they could see that. If we made specific environments to channel these artists talent and passion, we could solve the problem very quickly.

However, knowing bureaucracy I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Dan Brunskill

P.S This is an essay that I had to write for school, not what I usually have in the way of my blog.


  1. That's good man. Some really good points here.
    You just got to remember that a lot of the people who are calling Grafiti "art" make a point of stateing the difference between street art and tagging. The people who are complaining about vandelism are complaining about those who are tagging most of the time, as they are the ones doing it on fences. The ones who are doing it for arts sake, a lot of the time actually ask for permission before they do it. In fact, I am aware of an organisation for street art, and people who teach it, as a way of trying to stop people tagging, while still using their creative skills.

  2. Graffiti, Art in the wrong place.

    Have you heard of Banksy? There was a film about him recently at the film festival.

    Also point you to
    Which was a piece of art for stations of the cross 2009

    I'd postulate that taggers might also see their work as art. I remember being told in san francisco that many walls have murals on them because taggers respect others art works. They never tag a painting.

    As to the question does art have rules. It at least says they are difficult to define. Art seeks to provoke emotion rather than provide a formula.

    On my course is an artist called Allie Eagle.
    We watched a film about her:

    She's an ex gay rights activist. She's now wanted to speak to the nation against needless abortion etc.