General Question

cantonbulldogs's avatar

Is graffiti art or crime?

Asked by cantonbulldogs (7points) January 10th, 2019

Is graffiti art or a crime? Is the real question should people get arrested for making art? or should people run free for ruining others property?

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14 Answers

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

There’s no reason that it can’t be both. Whether or not something is a crime is just a matter of what laws are on the books, which is completely independent of whether or not something counts as art.

Your other questions are way to broad to be answered with a simple yes or no. Should people get arrested for making art? Not just for making art. But if someone decided to go on a killing spree and call it performance art, I don’t think there would be a lot of wringing of hands over whether arresting them was censorship.

Should people run free after ruining other’s property? This assumes that graffiti ruins whatever it is added to. Banksy’s Girl with a Balloon sold for £500,000 (almost $640,000 right now). I bet the shop owners didn’t consider their wall to be “ruined” after that. But just because graffiti doesn’t necessarily ruin someone else’s property doesn’t mean anyone should feel free to tag anything they want.

In short, I don’t think any of these are the “real question.” The real question you seek would need to have a much more nuanced understanding of the issues involved.

elbanditoroso's avatar

It isn’t an either / or question.

Some graffiti is really well done, and can be considered art – even fine art.

But beauty doesn’t make it legal, if you are painting on property or buildings that belong to someone else and that you have no right to draw on.

Totally different things.

Zaku's avatar

I agree with the two answers above.

I would add that I feel that what the laws say, does not directly/necessarily determine what is good or bad, nor what someone should or should not do, except from the context of the law. In some cases, from some subjectively well-reasoned perspectives (and even in some cases, some objective ones), doing some things that are against the law may be good and/or something someone should do.

Laws are passed by elected legislators – you know, those people most people are disgusted with? More and more often, they are written by the corporations that pull the legislators’ strings. Such as, laws that say it’s illegal to publicize information about negative aspects of what some corporations are doing.

What the laws should say is often fairly subjective.

What my subjective opinion says about graffiti laws, is that if someone paints/draws etc on someone else’s property without permission, then that gives the property owner a legitimate right to complain, if they choose to, and seek compensation. And having a law where the police can detain such a person to allow that to happen, seems reasonable in proportion to the scale of the effort needed to undo the drawing, and/or to tell them to stop and ask permission.

kritiper's avatar

If it’s done in a place that allows it, it can be art. But it usually shows up where it’s not wanted so then it is vandalism, a crime. Sometimes even destruction of private or public property.

Darth_Algar's avatar

It’s not an ether/or kinda deal. Art is art, whether it’s legal or not.

Jeruba's avatar

And graffiti is graffiti, whether it’s art or not.

gondwanalon's avatar

Graffiti is a misdemeanor offense in Washington State.

“Art “ is only art in the eyes of those who enjoy it. Graffiti is an eye sore (not art) to those who don’t like graffiti. I think that the number of people who enjoy graffiti is likely very small compared to the number of people who think graffiti is an eye-sore.

When I lived in San Francisco I often had to spend money and time to remove graffiti from the wall of my building. If I didn’t remove it quickly, the city would fine me and charge me a bloated fee to pay city employees to remove it.

Darth_Algar's avatar


But not all graffiti is a crime ether. Sometimes property owner will hire well know graffiti artists to paint graffiti murals on their buildings.

I think part of the issue here is that many people fail to make the distinction between graffiti, an art style, and vandalism, a crime against property. One can be the other, but isn’t necessarily so.

Jeruba's avatar

@Darth_Algar, I didn’t say anything about crime. I only spoke of graffiti in relation to art.

However, I do wonder how many people use the term graffiti to refer to a commissioned and paid-for mural by an artist. This one comes to mind. Don’t you think the usual understanding of graffiti is explicitly that it’s not authorized or consented to by the property owner?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Jeruba “I didn’t say anything about crime.”

That is, nevertheless, the premise of the question. This conversation you and I are engaged in being in context of that question.

“Don’t you think the usual understanding of graffiti is explicitly that it’s not authorized or consented to by the property owner?”

No, that is vandalism.

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