Is graffiti vandalism or art?

This is my unit 1 part D arts issue for my gold arts award.

Is graffiti vandalism or art?

Is graffiti vandalism or art?

It has always been a burning question whether graffiti is vandalism or art, in my opinion graffiti is 100% art, but others may think differently. Graffiti in most countries is considered a crime; however some pieces can hold high artistic qualities and deep meanings. It's just a case of determining where the fine line stands in the decision of vandalism or art. In this argument I will be presenting my own opinion, comparing opinions and facts from my research and coming to a conclusion about how my research has changed my own personal opinion on whether graffiti is vandalism or art.

Many people in the world, just like me, believe graffiti to be an art form for many particular reasons. Is it the excitement of a splash of colour added to the walls? Is it because the 'pieces' focus on taboo issues? Personally this is why I believe it is art. Maybe so do others, however one person who shares his opinion on the subject, George C Stowers an American writer, has something else to say about it all. George wrote in his book 'An essay concerning the recognition of some forms of graffiti as art' that graffiti simply has to be considered an art form. He says more complicated pieces of graffiti require planning and imagination and contain artistic elements like colour and composition. This is a point I totally agree with. He notices the difference between simple tags and bigger projects stating that 'they have little aesthetic appeal and should not be considered art' Tagging is a certain type of graffiti that uses a single word or series of symbols to mark a territory. All in all George claims to believe that graffiti is art as long as it's not a random tag on any old wall that has no meaning. This taught me that people do believe it is art, but it depends what type of graffiti it is.

In the world there is always going to be somebody with a different opinion, someone or even a group of people who do not agree with everyone else. Unfortunately in this case there are many people who feel as if graffiti is in its whole entirety is not art what so ever. I managed to find various debates online asking people about this topic and even answered to some myself. In one debate I found on debate.Org where they were asking if they believed graffiti was vandalism. 84% answered yes and 16% answered no, meaning the majority of people who believed graffiti is vandalism. I also looked at a poll from asking Is graffiti a form of art? 53.95% of people said no and 46.05% said yes therefore again more people think that graffiti is not a form of art. This shocked me I really believed more people would consider it an art form, after all it's just as creative and beautiful as it would be if it was on a piece of paper, right? Or this is what I thought until saw a particular comment. 'Even if your Picasso graffitying on somebody else's land it is not art and you should not be able to do it! It's a waste of space and destroys beautiful buildings and landscapes! Sure it looks nice, but it's ruining beautiful places by pointless drawings! It's not art at all!' This made me rethink my opinion on a whole. It made me realise that sometimes graffiti does obviously ruin places for people who believe them to be beautiful and that it effects people in different ways. However I then also thought isn't that what art is supposed to do? Affect people and get them talking, have an impact whether it be good or bad.

Graffiti is not just done on random walls in random areas, but is also done on people's homes. This is something that the home owner would have to spend time cleaning off, all because someone decided to 'deface' their property. An article I found made me think about how I would feel if my home was tagged in the middle of the night without my consent. They asked the readers would they admire the new addition or immediately call the police. I'd certainly call the police and this taught me that people really do get bothered about this issue, because sometimes it can make an area look rough and this is something most members of the public don't want to be associated with.

What if graffiti was both of these things? Not one or the other but both vandalism and art. I was very interested with individual's opinions on whether graffiti was vandalism or art and was quite puzzled on how my mind-set was changing throughout my research. I started thinking if graffiti is vandalism then how come some graffiti artists have become everyday household names. For example Banksy an anonymous England-based graffiti artist, who was named one of the 100 most influential people in 2010. His spray paint images are illegal, but still create newspaper headlines and sell for hundreds of thousands in galleries all around the globe. His work is considered art, however if a teenager spray painted on a random wall even to possibly Banksy's standard he/she would be labled as a criminal and punished for their actions. Other than Banksy there are many graffiti artists who work legally to create murals and paintings for other people in their homes. This is something I've always wanted, a graffiti mural in my bedroom, because I think it would look really cool and id already been researching artists that could do this for me. I emailed a team called graffiti life asking them so questions on my arts issue. They told me that graffiti is most defiantly vandalism, because it is illegal, however it is still allowed to be art. They suggested to me that what makes something art is an individual's opinions. I agreed entirely with this statement, because if I looked at a tag I'd say 'that's not art' but if there was a piece with deep meaning then to me that's art. However they shared their opinion and said 'if anyone can appreciate the beauty in a piece of 'vandalism', anything from a full painting to a graffiti tag then I would argue that it would have to be categorised as art' this opened my eyes to believe that truly anything is art if it has a meaning to you.

Throughout the research for this issue my opinion has been on a rollercoaster ride, but I've defiantly come to a conclusion and an answer for the question is graffiti vandalism or art? It's simply both in my overall opinion graffiti is vandalism, because it's illegal unless you have permission which 9 times out of 10 people don't. However it is also most defiantly art, because of the uses of artistic element and the issues the paintings try and battle, however I still believe that tagging isn't, however It's all down to how individual people view art.


Jodie Rogers

Jodie Rogers

I am a student from Herne Bay High School and i'm doing my gold arts award.

We need your help supporting young creatives


  • Luke Taylor

    On 13 March 2017, 09:57 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    In my opinion is ART. It's a symbol of rebellion, and it presents a fantastic new form of creativity. What a shame that people still see it as vandalism when it does no harm...

  • Emma Del'Nero Williams

    On 13 March 2017, 10:32 Emma Del'Nero Williams commented:

    This is a debate that I have thought about many times and I was of the opinion that it is simply art. However, after reading your arts issue, I also think that it is art and vandalism. Unless permission is given by the owner of the building/land then it is most definitely vandalism. If someone finds beauty or interest in the piece then it is also art.

    I thought your comment about art sparking debate very fascinating and indeed agree that Graffiti definitely does this.

  • Mollie Gambrill

    On 14 March 2017, 20:12 Mollie Gambrill commented:

    This is really interesting Jodie well done! I totally believe Grafitti is art providing it isn't just a tag or some words, if time and effort has been put into making it a beautiful or abstract or fascinating piece of art then it is an art form! The line between what is vandalism and what is art isn't as big as what people make it out to be and I really enjoyed reading this study :)

  • Chloe Packman

    On 16 March 2017, 10:01 Chloe Packman commented:

    A really nice arts issue. I definitely feel like graffiti is art, and it is sad that a lot of art work people express is illegal unless people have permission (however there is a difference between the graffiti art and tags) and I think there will always be the issue of whether graffiti is art or vandalism. Well done :)

  • Reuben  Jager

    On 19 March 2017, 18:06 Reuben Jager commented:

    A very well put, and educated article. I too believe that graffiti is indeed an art form, however it is undeniably vandalism, even if it is well thought out, or hiding a deeper meaning, or even a controversial viewpoint. Graffiti is simply the art used by the rebel, and that's why it has a particular charm that not many can appreciate.

  • Tom Guilliard

    On 19 April 2017, 09:36 Tom Guilliard commented:

    I really enjoyed this article and the subject it was based on. Graffiti being classed as art or vandalism is a debate that constantly goes on and I agree with your overall conclusion. Throughout your article I noticed that you gave the opinion from George C Stowers saying that 'little tags should not be classed as art' and I agree with this because I feel that some people may use the word 'art' as an excuse to graffiti. I feel that you jumped through different opinions and it is also good to really think about your own opinion, but I agree that it is both art and vandalism.

  • Lauren Amos

    On 19 April 2017, 10:12 Lauren Amos commented:

    I agree I think that graffiti is art! I love it as you clearly understand what you're talking about. and it is very well written! Its such an expressive art and I'm glad that other people are seeing it as art rather than vandalism.

  • Jake  Ashby

    On 19 April 2017, 10:24 Jake Ashby commented:

    I believe that graffiti can be an art form as it is done in a creative way. However, it depends if it is classed as vandalism or if its done in a tasteful way. I thought that your response to this issue was very detailed and had lots of different opinions. Which, made me think about the issue more.

  • Frazer McCartney

    On 19 April 2017, 11:11 Frazer McCartney commented:

    I think both. This is because I think it can definitely be art, but then again it is also a crime. Its vandalism because they haven't asked for permission. Not all of it is art, tagging is something that they do to mark territory. This is meaningless that's vandalism. The art work could mean something to some people, there could be a deeper meaning behind the picture that has been made. I loved reading this because it has bought out my views on this.

  • Lucy Beacon

    On 22 May 2017, 09:47 Lucy Beacon commented:

    what a good arts issue Jodie, I do believe that graffiti is art. However, this issue has really made me think about the effect it can have on people who think its vandalism and class it as a crime. But overall graffiti is a way of expressing yourself and your views on the world (plus it can be washed off). :)

  • Hollie Jenkins

    On 22 May 2017, 11:45 Hollie Jenkins commented:

    I think that graffiti is art! As an art student myself, I believe that art should be expressed anywhere and everywhere! I really like this review as it bought both views to my attention!

  • louie gutsell

    On 23 May 2017, 13:45 louie gutsell commented:

    I think that graffiti is art! I believe that art should be expressed anywhere and everywhere, however it has made me think about the effect it can have to people who think it is vandalism. I really like this review as it brings out both view about graffiti

  • Donny Ferris

    On 23 May 2017, 13:59 Donny Ferris commented:

    When I started reading this I was very clear with what I thought about it either being vandalism or art, but after reading this issue I have come to the conclusion that it is mixed and it can be both not just one or the other.

  • Jake Wood

    On 23 May 2017, 14:08 Jake Wood commented:

    well done Jodie this was a very powerful response to an issue I have thought allot about. I completely agree with what you said about it not being "vandalism or art" but rather simply vandalism AND art.

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