What Are the Pros and Cons of Graffiti?


Graffiti occupies a complicated and controversial zone between street art and vandalism, with artists arguing that it’s a powerful form of art with roots in Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat, and detractors pointing out that it is illegal, a form of vandalism and heavily associated with gangs. Taggers and neighborhoods often come into conflict with each other.

Solutions to graffiti have ranged from arresting the culprits to replacing negative images with positive ones and redirecting the talents of graffiti artists to more productive venues. A strong argument against arresting taggers is that the arrest has become a status symbol and a way of demonstrating a tagger’s commitment. Some communities have sponsored programs where children and teenagers remove unwanted graffiti.

In the United Kingdom, graffiti became a tool to express political statements in the hands of Banksy. While Banksy is not the first artist to deliver social commentary through art, his graffiti is highly publicized with an international audience. Banksy has pointed out that graffiti’s strengths lies in its accessibility, with no need for portfolio reviews, selective galleries, expensive art colleges or extensive networking.

The consensus seems to be that graffiti where it is wanted and can be admired is street art and that graffiti where it is not wanted is vandalism.