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Political Art is Art

Why Graffiti Should Be Classed as Art

By Elana Tait


Credit: Art by Banksy, Photo by Pawel Ryszawa


My favourite artist is Banksy.

He prowls the streets of England, spray can in hand, hood up. If you were to see him, you might cross the road, mistaking him for a troublemaker. I suppose, in some ways, he is. His art is so powerful and beautifully expressive that it’s sold for millions, but technically he is repeatedly breaking the law. This begs the question; is graffiti art?

A lot of people and governments view graffiti as some sort of evidence of a social breakdown; it is a blemish on the neighbourhood, something that should be covered. Graffiti is included in the ‘Broken Window Theory’ which is a criminological theory based upon the idea that visible signs of disorder in a community will eventually feed into bigger issues such as escalated crime. To use graffiti as your chosen art form is thought to be setting a bad example. However, the creators of this graffiti view themselves as artists, painting on the canvas of the world. They are expressing themselves in many interesting and innovative ways that often lead to the creation of something incredible.

I recently visited Pisa, Italy, where graffiti was often of a social or political nature. Surely a public space is the best place for an artist to share their ideas, knowing that they will be seen. I understand that there are certain moral obligations not to completely defame public property. In this case, it must be up to the artist in question to decide whether they are adding to the area or not. Random tags on walls that have no meaning have no place on public property but if you truly believe you are expressing yourself and your opinions through this idea of rebellious creativity – I see no problem.

While staying in Pisa, I researched the best sights to visit. Interestingly, multiple different websites insisted I visit a famous mural painted on the walls of San Antonio church. Like this one, graffiti projects are being executed on a larger scale which is in turn, helping them with their acceptance into society. Due to this, graffiti artists are being renamed as mural artists. These large murals require lots of meticulous planning and imagination, organisational skills and involve the local councils. There’s no way these pieces can’t be seen as credible. Visiting this piece, I can understand why it was created. The vibrant colours jump off the wall and brighten up the whole street. This artwork completely revitalizes the space, which I think is the point of most graffiti work. Some of the most powerful graffiti has the power to inspire and surprise those who see it.

I believe that it’s actually really important to protect graffiti and street art and to view these forms of art as creditable and valuable forms of expression. If graffiti begins to move into the realms of criminal damage, then it’s an issue for the law. However, as long as graffiti continues only to make critical statements and enrich spaces, how can it not be considered art? Critics need to separate the artwork from the canvas and appreciate the masterpiece of emotions and thoughts in front of them.

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