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Graffiti: The Most Controversial Art Form

What is art to you? To most it is anything that draws their eye to it, from a painting to a unique lamp. Does art have a timeframe? Something can take ten seconds and be considered art. Does art have a price tag? Some people are considered artists who have never made a dollar off their pieces.


Many people have seen the full wall paintings on the sides of buildings, in cities or parks. Those are not always graffiti, there is a difference between graffiti and murals. Murals are usually paid for by the building owner and have no significant meaning. But there is an even bigger difference between graffiti and vandalism. It is a common misconception that vandalism and Graffiti are the same thing. Vandalism is the destruction of property. For example tagging is a form of vandalism.Tagging is just the artist’s name painted or drawn onto usually a sign or wall, these pieces have no meaning. Graffiti is an art form, with a bigger purpose. The Museum of the City, in partnership with Portland State University, is a web based museum whose intention is to give the population insight about the culture and past of graffiti. The earliest graffiti was created in the caves of France during the Paleolithic era. Jackson Pollock created his first drip painting in 1947, starting the idea of expressionism. The expressionism movement turned away from recognizable forms, like medieval art. In the 1970’s graffiti became a common sight, growing very rapidly in New York’s five boroughs. Also occurring in the 1970’s many housing projects were beginning to develop in New York. Graffiti was a form of peaceful protest. The Museum of the city is working to stop the projects currently in every city aimed at the removal of graffiti. The museum is also working on experimenting more with legal graffiti areas, a place for artists and writers to express themselves and create art without the worry of being caught.

Everyone knows the names Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Keith Haring. These three world famous artists took inspiration from graffiti artists. They were drawn to the culture and abstractness of their pieces. Who knows the name Banksy? He is another world famous artist whose pieces have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. His works evoke emotion in anyone who walks by them, weather they laugh or take a moment to think deeper about the past. Banksy is an anonymous artist, because he is also a graffiti artist. Most of his work is now in galleries or museums because leaving his works on the walls leaves it vulnerable to cover up crews. If a graffiti piece is covered up with mismatched paint splotches does it really look better or “clean up” the area? Banksy get the title artist, even though  he along with all other graffiti artists started in the  same  place. In an  article in  the New York Times  reporter, Shannon Doyne, interviews Banksy, he stated: “ I’ve learnt from experience that a painting isn’t finished when you put down your brush – that’s when it starts. The public reaction is what supplies meaning and value. Art comes alive in the arguments you have about it.” According to Banksy, every piece of graffiti that is discussed is a piece of art because we are taking the time to discuss it. Whether you like or dislike the graffiti, whether it was put up legally or not, or whether in the end it was covered up does not matter. We remember it and felt that is was worth having a conversation about. Art is all about causing a reaction, especially graffiti.


Next time you are walking down the street and pass a mural, or a piece of graffiti, think to yourself what is the artist trying to say here. Do not focus on if it was legally put up or not. To many, art is not just located in a museum and it certainly does not always have  an outrageous price tag. Graffiti is art in it’s truest form.