Is graffiti art? Or vandalism?

Graffiti is the art of writing, marking, scribbling etc. on any public property. It can cause destruction. Obviously, they question authorization and space. But mainly it symbolizes a medium of unrestricted artistic expression. They give a challenging thought to common consensus about the value of art. They can be various forms: spraying, painting, scratching, scrawling etc.


It has been around for almost thousand years. In the 1st century BCE, Romans used to regularly inscribe message on public walls. Mayans were found vigorously scratching letters and drawings onto their surfaces. Pompeii have ordinary citizens that regularly indulge themselves in marking pubic walls with poetry, unrequited love messages, magical spells, political slogans etc.

However, there were people who demeaned the concept. Some of them include, Greek Philosopher Plutarch who described graffities as pointless art form.

The concept of vandalism came by 5th Century. A barbaric tribe, Vandals, crossed Rome pillaging and destroying city. However, the term, Vandalism was actually coined centuries later than that during the French Revolution in an outcry against defacing of art. Slowly when Graffiti became a part of deliberate rebellion and provocativeness, it went up to vandalistic label. This is the reason why many graffiti artists are underground or take up alternate identities to avoid penalties and punishments. A novel overlap of celebrity and anonymity crossed the streets of Philadelphia and New York City. Coded labels are used to trace their movement in and around the city.

Reason of Spreading

The thing that forced graffiti into shadows is the illegality. This also encouraged and increase the follower base. Gradually graffiti artists began to challenge space and authorities. They began painting on subway cars, billboards and even once, animals of the city zoo. Seeing this, political movements began incorporating graffiti to spread their visual messages. One of the examples is the World War II, where both the party used graffities to spread their propaganda and the Berlin Wall’s one-sided graffiti that symbolizes repression.

In 1970, graffiti union was formed with a selection of graffiti artists a decade later. The unlikely partnerships of graffiti artists with bands and museums have helped the graffiti artists to leave their underground state and evolve themselves into the spotlight.

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