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Is Graffiti Really Art?

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

Graffiti is interesting. It's creative and unrestricted. And it's pretty much everywhere you look. In fact, every metropolitan area of the globe exhibits countless examples of graffiti, becoming more pervasive as populations expand. Perhaps that's why, in recent years, graffiti has morphed from vandalism to 'art'. Once considered to be nothing more than an unattractive defacement of private property, graffiti is often now seen as a popular form of 'street art'.

5 Reasons Why Graffiti is 'Art'

1. It's Historically Significant

Historically speaking, 'Graffiti' has existed since the dawn of Mankind. Cave paintings around the world attest to that fact. One could argue that graffiti was the first form of 'art'. Certainly, like all art, graffiti is a stylized depiction of some social or personal expression, and is to be considered an 'artistic expression' by today's standards. But its purpose is not always merely to make a statement. Its purpose might often be to outrage or empower, or to bring about some desired social change.

2. It's Diverse and Pervasive

And graffiti is an incredibly diverse 'street art' form. From paste-ups to murals, stencils to tags, graffiti come in many 'flavors'. It's purpose is often simply to create an interesting geometric signature or moniker, used to express one's existence, or mark one's territory. In recent times, though, it has morphed into the more traditional sense of art as 'decor'. Now, every city has buildings that proudly display the work of street artists. There is an expansive body of urban art found everywhere you look, all over the world.

3. Mysterious & Intriguing

Once preferable to remain anonymous, since the invention of Instagram, it’s becoming increasingly prominent, and easy, for street art to advertise their work. Some have even become quite famous. Perhaps they believe that mystery and intrigue is power.

4. Has Social Relevancy

There are, however, countless others who, for legal or political reasons, prefer to remain anonymous. Some street artists don’t even tag their work. Found on walls and buildings in every city, graffiti is often a means of anonymous political protest. During the recent Greek economic crisis, for example, angry sentiments sprung up all around Athens, expressing the anger and frustration of people living there. Scrawled illegally and boldly, the walls and buildings of a city often become the 'people's canvas'.

5. An Expression of Freedom

Art is about expression, creativity, freedom, asking and raising questions. Graffiti, as 'street art', is a popular form of expression, for the most part, practiced by the younger denizens of every city, often with nothing more than a single can of spray paint. No need to be a working, 'professional artists' (though they are not excluded). Need to have thousands of fans on social media (although some do). Just as in the earliest times, when all that was required was a stone wall and a piece of charcoal, so it is today. Granted, the charcoal has been replaced by a can of spray paint. But graffiti in particular, and street art in general, continues to be the 'art of the masses'.

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