(plural of graffito: "a graffito", but "these graffiti") are
writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted
illicitly on a wall or other surface, often within public view.
range from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings,
and they have existed since ancient times, with examples dating back
to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire.
In modern times, paint (particularly spray paint) and marker pens have
become the most commonly used graffiti materials. In most countries,
marking or painting property without the property owner's permission
is considered defacement and vandalism, which is a punishable crime.
may also express underlying social and political messages and
a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint
graffiti styles. Within hip hop culture, graffiti have evolved
alongside hip hop music, b-boying, and other elements. Unrelated to
hip-hop graffiti, gangs use their own form of graffiti to mark
territory or to serve as an indicator of gang-related activities.
Controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement
amongst city officials, law enforcement, and writers who wish to
display and appreciate work in public locations. There are many
different types and styles of graffiti; it is a rapidly developing art
form whose value is highly contested and reviled by many authorities
while also subject to protection, sometimes within the same
2.1 Modern-style graffiti
2.2 Literacy or illiteracy often revealed in graffiti
3 Contemporary graffiti
3.1 Advent of aerosol paint
3.2 Spread of hip hop culture
Stencil graffiti emerges
Graffiti as a memorial
3.5 Commercialization and entrance into mainstream pop culture
3.6 Gamer culture
3.8 Global developments
3.8.1 South America
3.8.2 Middle East
3.8.3 Southeast Asia
4 Characteristics of common graffiti
4.1 Methods and production
4.2 Modern experimentation
5.1 Personal expression
5.2 Radical and political
5.3 As advertising
5.4 Offensive graffiti
6 Decorative and high art
7 Environmental effects
8 Government responses
8.4 New Zealand
8.5 United States
8.5.1 Tracker databases
8.5.2 Gang injunctions
8.5.3 Hotlines and reward programs
8.5.4 Search warrants
10 Dramatic films
12 See also
14 External links
1569 scratched graffiti in the Holy Trinity Chapel in Lublin,
commemorating Union of Lublin
Both "graffiti" and its occasional singular form "graffito" are from
the Italian word graffiato ("scratched"). "Graffiti" is applied in art
history to works of art produced by scratching a design into a
surface. A related term is "sgraffito", which involves scratching
through one layer of pigment to reveal another beneath it. This
technique was primarily used by potters who would glaze their wares
and then scratch a design into it. In ancient times graffiti were
carved on walls with a sharp object, although sometimes chalk or coal
were used. The word originates from Greek γράφειν — graphein
— meaning "to write."
Figure graffito, similar to a relief, at the Castellania, in Valletta
The term graffiti referred to the inscriptions, figure drawings, and
such, found on the walls of ancient sepulchres or ruins, as in the
Rome or at Pompeii. Use of the word has evolved to
include any graphics applied to surfaces in a manner that constitutes
The only known source of the
Safaitic language, a form of
proto-Arabic, is from graffiti: inscriptions scratched on to the
surface of rocks and boulders in the predominantly basalt desert of
southern Syria, eastern
Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia. Safaitic
dates from the first century BC to the fourth century AD.
The first known example of "modern style" graffiti survives in the
ancient Greek city of
Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). Local guides say
it is an advertisement for prostitution. Located near a mosaic and
stone walkway, the graffiti shows a handprint that vaguely resembles a
heart, along with a footprint and a number. This is believed to
indicate that a brothel was nearby, with the handprint symbolizing
The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of
which also survive in Egypt.
Graffiti in the classical world had
different connotations than they carry in today's society concerning
content. Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations,
political rhetoric, and simple words of thought, compared to today's
popular messages of social and political ideals The eruption of
Vesuvius preserved graffiti in Pompeii, which includes
magic spells, declarations of love, alphabets, political slogans, and
famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient Roman street
life. One inscription gives the address of a woman named Novellia
Primigenia of Nuceria, a prostitute, apparently of great beauty, whose
services were much in demand. Another shows a phallus accompanied by
the text, mansueta tene ("handle with care").
Disappointed love also found its way onto walls in antiquity:
Quisquis amat. veniat. Veneri volo frangere costas
fustibus et lumbos debilitare deae.
Si potest illa mihi tenerum pertundere pectus
quit ego non possim caput illae frangere fuste?
Whoever loves, go to hell. I want to break Venus's ribs
with a club and deform her hips.
If she can break my tender heart
why can't I hit her over the head?
—CIL IV, 1824.
Ancient tourists visiting the 5th century citadel at
Sigiriya in Sri
Lanka scribbled over 1800 individual graffiti there between 6th and
18th centuries. Etched on the surface of the Mirror Wall, they contain
pieces of prose, poetry, and commentary. The majority of these
visitors appear to have been from the elite of society: royalty,
officials, professions, and clergy. There were also soldiers, archers,
and even some metalworkers. The topics range from love to satire,
curses, wit, and lament. Many demonstrate a very high level of
literacy and a deep appreciation of art and poetry. Most of the
graffiti refer to the frescoes of semi-nude females found there.
Wet with cool dew drops
fragrant with perfume from the flowers
came the gentle breeze
jasmine and water lily
dance in the spring sunshine
of the golden hued ladies
stab into my thoughts
heaven itself cannot take my mind
as it has been captivated by one lass
among the five hundred I have seen here.
Among the ancient political graffiti examples were
poems. Yazid al-Himyari, an
Arab and Persian poet, was most
known for writing his political poetry on the walls between Sajistan
and Basra, manifesting a strong hatred towards the
Umayyad regime and
its walis, and people used to read and circulate them very
Literacy or illiteracy often revealed in graffiti
Historic forms of graffiti have helped gain understanding into the
lifestyles and languages of past cultures. Errors in spelling and
grammar in these graffiti offer insight into the degree of literacy in
Roman times and provide clues on the pronunciation of spoken Latin.
Examples are CIL IV, 7838: Vettium Firmum / aed[ilem] quactiliar[ii]
[sic] rog[ant]. Here, "qu" is pronounced "co." The 83 pieces of
graffiti found at CIL IV, 4706-85 are evidence of the ability to read
and write at levels of society where literacy might not be expected.
The graffiti appear on a peristyle which was being remodeled at the
time of the eruption of
Vesuvius by the architect Crescens. The
graffiti were left by both the foreman and his workers. The brothel at
CIL VII, 12, 18–20 contains more than 120 pieces of graffiti, some
of which were the work of the prostitutes and their clients. The
gladiatorial academy at CIL IV, 4397 was scrawled with graffiti left
by the gladiator Celadus
Crescens (Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex:
"Celadus the Thracian makes the girls sigh.")
Another piece from Pompeii, written on a tavern wall about the owner
of the establishment and his questionable wine:
Landlord, may your lies malign
Bring destruction on your head!
You yourself drink unmixed wine,
Water [do you] sell [to] your guests instead.
It was not only the Greeks and Romans who produced graffiti: the Maya
Guatemala contains examples of ancient Maya graffiti.
Viking graffiti survive in
Rome and at
Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and
Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the
Hagia Sophia at Constantinople. These early forms of graffiti have
contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past
Graffiti, known as Tacherons, were frequently scratched on Romanesque
Scandinavian church walls. When
Renaissance artists such as
Pinturicchio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Ghirlandaio, or Filippino Lippi
descended into the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea, they carved or painted
their names and returned to initiate the grottesche style of
There are also examples of graffiti occurring in American history,
such as Independence Rock, a national landmark along the Oregon
Later, French soldiers carved their names on monuments during the
Napoleonic campaign of Egypt in the 1790s. Lord Byron's survives
on one of the columns of the Temple of
Cape Sounion in
Pompeii graffito caricature of a politician
Ironic wall inscription commenting on boring graffiti
Satirical Alexamenos graffito, possibly the earliest known
representation of Jesus
Graffiti, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Crusader graffiti in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Viking mercenary graffiti at the
Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, Turkey
Graffiti on the Mirror Wall, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Graffiti writing is often seen[by whom?] as having become intertwined
with hip hop culture and the myriad international styles derived from
New York City Subway
New York City Subway graffiti. However, there are
many other instances of notable graffiti in the twentieth century.
Graffiti have long appeared on building walls, in latrines, railroad
boxcars, subways, and bridges. The example with the longest known
history, dating back to the 1920s and continuing into the present day,
is Bozo Texino.
Some graffiti have their own poignancy. In World War II, an
inscription on a wall at the fortress of
Verdun was seen as an
illustration of the US response twice in a generation to the wrongs of
the Old World:
Austin White – Chicago, Ill – 1918
Austin White – Chicago, Ill – 1945
This is the last time I want to write my name here.
World War II
World War II and for decades after, the phrase "Kilroy was
here" with an accompanying illustration was widespread throughout the
world, due to its use by American troops and ultimately filtering into
American popular culture. Shortly after the death of Charlie Parker
(nicknamed "Yardbird" or "Bird"), graffiti began appearing around New
York with the words "Bird Lives". The student protests and general
strike of May 1968 saw
Paris bedecked in revolutionary, anarchistic,
and situationist slogans such as L'ennui est contre-révolutionnaire
("Boredom is counterrevolutionary") expressed in painted graffiti,
poster art, and stencil art. At the time in the US, other political
phrases (such as "Free Huey" about Black Panther Huey Newton) became
briefly popular as graffiti in limited areas, only to be forgotten. A
popular graffito of the 1970s was the legend "Dick Nixon Before He
Dicks You", reflecting the hostility of the youth culture to that US
World War II
World War II graffiti
Soldier with tropical fantasy graffiti (1943–1944)
Soviet Army graffiti in the ruins of the Reichstag in
Permanent engraving of Kilroy on the
World War II
World War II Memorial in
Advent of aerosol paint
Rock and roll graffiti is a significant subgenre. A famous graffito of
the twentieth century was the inscription in the
London tube reading
"Clapton is God" in a link to the guitarist Eric Clapton. The phrase
was spray-painted by an admirer on a wall in an
Islington station on
the Underground in the autumn of 1967. The graffito was captured in a
photograph, in which a dog is urinating on the wall.
Graffiti also became associated with the anti-establishment punk rock
movement beginning in the 1970s. Bands such as Black Flag and Crass
(and their followers) widely stenciled their names and logos, while
many punk night clubs, squats, and hangouts are famous for their
graffiti. In the late 1980s the upside down Martini glass that was the
tag for punk band
Missing Foundation was the most ubiquitous graffito
in lower Manhattan, and was copied by hard core punk fans throughout
the US and West Germany.
Along similar lines was the legend "Frodo Lives," referring to the
protagonist of The Lord of the Rings.
Early spray-painted graffiti
New York City Subway
New York City Subway trains were covered in graffiti (1973)
Graffiti in Chicago (1973)
Spread of hip hop culture
In 1979, graffiti artist
Lee Quinones and Fab 5 Freddy were given a
gallery opening in
Rome by art dealer Claudio Bruni. For many outside
of New York, it was their first encounter with their art form. Fab 5
Freddy's friendship with
Debbie Harry influenced Blondie's single
"Rapture" (Chrysalis, 1981), the video of which featured Jean-Michel
Basquiat, and offered many their first glimpse of a depiction of
elements of graffiti in hip hop culture. JaJaJa toured Germany,
Switzerland, Belgium, and Holland with a large graffiti canvas as a
backdrop. Charlie Ahearn's independently released fiction film
Wild Style (Wild Style, 1983), the early PBS documentary Style Wars
(1983), hit songs such as "The Message" and "Planet Rock" and their
accompanying music videos (both 1982) contributed to a growing
interest outside New York in all aspects of hip hop.
Style Wars depicted not only famous graffiti artists such as Skeme,
Dondi, MinOne, and ZEPHYR, but also reinforced graffiti's role within
New York's emerging hip-hop culture by incorporating famous early
break-dancing groups such as Rock Steady Crew into the film and
featuring rap in the soundtrack. Although many officers of the New
York City Police Department found this film to be controversial, Style
Wars is still recognized as the most prolific film representation of
what was going on within the young hip hop culture of the early
1980s. Fab 5 Freddy and Futura 2000 took hip hop graffiti to Paris
London as part of the New York City Rap Tour in 1983.
Hollywood also paid attention, consulting writers such as
PHASE 2 as
it depicted the culture and gave it international exposure in movies
Beat Street (Orion, 1984).
Stencil graffiti emerges
This period also saw the emergence of the new stencil graffiti genre.
Some of the first examples were created in 1981 by graffiti artist
Blek le Rat
Blek le Rat in Paris, in 1982 by
Jef Aerosol in Tours
(France); by 1985 stencils had appeared in other
cities including New York City, Sydney, and Melbourne, where they were
documented by American photographer Charles Gatewood and Australian
photographer Rennie Ellis.
Modern stencil graffiti, a very common style, in Toronto, Ontario,
John Fekner stencils in South Bronx, New York City (1980)
Banksy on the waterline of The Thekla, an entertainment
boat in central Bristol
Stencil in Barcelona, Spain
Stencil graffito by
Edward von Lõngus
Edward von Lõngus in Tartu, Estonia, that takes a
popular children's book character and manipulates it to produce a
social-critical work about the war on drugs
Graffiti as a memorial
People often leave their traces in wet cement or concrete. This type
of graffito often commemorates the mutual commitment of a couple, or
simply records a person's presence at a particular moment. Often this
type of graffito is dated and is left untouched for decades, offering
a look into local historical minutiae.
Commercialization and entrance into mainstream pop culture
Main article: Commercial graffiti
With the popularity and legitimization of graffiti has come a level of
commercialization. In 2001, computer giant
IBM launched an advertising
campaign in Chicago and
San Francisco which involved people spray
painting on sidewalks a peace symbol, a heart, and a penguin (Linux
mascot), to represent "Peace, Love, and Linux." Due to laws forbidding
it, some of the "street artists" were arrested and charged with
IBM was fined more than US$120,000 for punitive damages
and clean-up costs.
In 2005, a similar ad campaign was launched by
Sony and executed by
TATS CRU in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and
Miami, to market its handheld PSP gaming system. In this campaign,
taking notice of the legal problems of the
building owners for the rights to paint on their buildings "a
collection of dizzy-eyed urban kids playing with the PSP as if it were
a skateboard, a paddle, or a rocking horse".
Along with the commercial growth has come the rise of video games also
depicting graffiti, usually in a positive aspect – for example, the
Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio series (2000–2003) tells the story of a group of teens
fighting the oppression of a totalitarian police force that attempts
to limit the graffiti artists' freedom of speech. In plotlines
mirroring the negative reaction of non-commercial artists to the
commercialization of the art form by companies such as
Sony itself) the Rakugaki Ōkoku series (2003–2005) for
PlayStation 2 revolves around an anonymous hero and his
magically imbued-with-life graffiti creations as they struggle against
an evil king who only allows art to be produced which can benefit him.
Following the original roots of modern graffiti as a political force
came another game title, Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under
Pressure (2006), featuring a story line involving fighting against a
corrupt city and its oppression of free speech, as in the Jet Set
Other games which feature graffiti include Bomb the World (2004), an
online graffiti simulation created by graffiti artist
Klark Kent where
users can paint trains virtually at 20 locations worldwide, and Super
Mario Sunshine (2002), in which the hero,
Mario must clean the city of
graffiti left by the villain,
Bowser Jr. in a plotline which evokes
the successes of the Anti-
Graffiti Task Force of New York's Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani (a manifestation of the "broken window theory") or
those of the "
Graffiti Blasters" of Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Numerous other non-graffiti-centric video games allow the player to
produce graffiti (such as the Half-Life series, the Tony Hawk's
series, The Urbz: Sims in the City, Rolling, and Grand Theft Auto: San
Andreas). Counter-Strike, which is a Half-Life mod, allows users to
create their own graffiti tags to use in the game. Many other titles
contain in-game depictions of graffiti, including The Darkness, Double
Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone, NetHack, Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked,
The World Ends with You, The Warriors, Just Cause, Portal, and various
examples of Virtual Graffiti. There also exist games where the term
"graffiti" is used as a synonym for "drawing" (such as Yahoo!
Graffiti, Graffiti, etc.).
Marc Ecko, an urban clothing designer, has been an advocate of
graffiti as an art form during this period, stating that "
without question the most powerful art movement in recent history and
has been a driving inspiration throughout my career."
Henry Chalfant is one of the foremost advocates of modern graffiti,
having produced the documentary film
Style Wars and co-authored the
Subway Art and Spray Can Art. His most recent work, Henry
Graffiti Archive: New York City's
Subway Art and Artists
displays his over 800 photographs of
New York City Subway
New York City Subway Graffiti
Keith Haring was another well-known graffiti artist who brought Pop
Art and graffiti to the commercial mainstream. In the 1980s, Haring
opened his first Pop Shop: a store that offered everyone access to his
works, which until then could only be found spray-painted on city
walls. Pop Shop offered commodities such as bags and t-shirts. Haring
explained that "The Pop Shop makes my work accessible. It's about
participation on a big level, the point was that we didn't want to
produce things that would cheapen the art. In other words, this was
still art as statement."
Graffiti have become a common stepping stone for many members of both
the art and design communities in North America and abroad. Within the
United States graffiti artists such as Mike Giant, Pursue, Rime, Noah,
and countless others have made careers in skateboard, apparel, and
shoe design for companies such as DC Shoes, Adidas, Rebel8, Osiris, or
Circa Meanwhile, there are many others such as DZINE, Daze, Blade,
and The Mac who have made the switch to being gallery artists, often
not even using their initial medium, spray paint.
But perhaps the greatest example of graffiti artists infiltrating
mainstream pop culture is the French crew 123Klan. Founded as a
graffiti crew in 1989 by Scien and Klor,
123Klan has gradually turned
their hands to illustration and design while still maintaining their
graffiti practice and style. In doing so they have designed and
produced logos and illustrations, shoes, and fashion for the likes of
Nike, Adidas, Lamborghini, Coca Cola, Stussy, Sony, Nasdaq, and
There is a significant graffiti tradition in South America, especially
in Brazil. Within Brazil,
São Paulo is a significant centre of
inspiration for many graffiti artists worldwide.
Tristan Manco wrote that
Brazil "boasts a unique and particularly
rich, graffiti scene ... [earning] it an international reputation
as the place to go for artistic inspiration."
Graffiti "flourishes in
every conceivable space in Brazil's cities." Artistic parallels "are
often drawn between the energy of
São Paulo today and 1970s New
York." The "sprawling metropolis," of
São Paulo has "become the new
shrine to graffiti;" Manco alludes to "poverty and
unemployment ... [and] the epic struggles and conditions of the
country's marginalised peoples," and to "Brazil's chronic poverty," as
the main engines that "have fuelled a vibrant graffiti culture." In
Brazil has "one of the most uneven distributions of
income. Laws and taxes change frequently." Such factors, Manco argues,
contribute to a very fluid society, riven with those economic
divisions and social tensions that underpin and feed the "folkloric
vandalism and an urban sport for the disenfranchised," that is South
American graffiti art.
Prominent Brazilian graffiti artists include Os Gêmeos, Boleta,
Nunca, Nina, Speto, Tikka, and T.Freak. Their artistic success and
involvement in commercial design ventures has highlighted
divisions within the Brazilian graffiti community between adherents of
the cruder transgressive form of pichação and the more
conventionally artistic values of the practitioners of grafite.
A graffiti piece found in Tel Aviv by the artist DeDe
Graffiti in the
Middle East is emerging slowly, with pockets of
taggers operating in the various 'Emirates' of the United Arab
Emirates, in Israel, and in Iran. The major Iranian newspaper
Hamshahri has published two articles on illegal writers in the city
with photographic coverage of Iranian artist A1one's works on Tehran
walls. Tokyo-based design magazine, PingMag, has interviewed
featured photographs of his work. The Israeli
West Bank barrier
has become a site for graffiti, reminiscent in this sense of the
Berlin Wall. Many graffiti artists in
Israel come from other places
around the globe, such as JUIF from
Los Angeles and DEVIONE from
London. The religious reference "נ נח נחמ נחמן מאומן"
("Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman") is commonly seen in graffiti around
There are also a large number of graffiti influences in Southeast
Asian countries that mostly come from modern Western culture, such as
Malaysia, where graffiti have long been a common sight in Malaysia's
capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Since 2010, the country has begun hosting
a street festival to encourage all generations and people from all
walks of life to enjoy and encourage Malaysian street culture.
Graffiti around the world
Graffiti on a wall in Čakovec, Croatia
Artful graffiti of a
Maracatu performer in Olinda, Brazil
Open Museum of Urban Art of São Paulo, Brazil
Graffiti in Tehran, Iran
Graffiti art in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Graffiti on a retaining wall in Upper Manhattan
Characteristics of common graffiti
Graffiti terminology and
Graffiti in the United States
Methods and production
The modern-day graffiti artist can be found with an arsenal of various
materials that allow for a successful production of a piece. This
includes such techniques as scribing. However, spray paint in aerosol
cans is the number one medium for graffiti. From this commodity comes
different styles, technique, and abilities to form master works of
Spray paint can be found at hardware and art stores and
comes in virtually every color.
Stencil graffiti, originating in the early 1980s (Blek le Rat, Jef
Aerosol, Speedy Graphito, Miss Tic...) is created by cutting out
shapes and designs in a stiff material (such as cardboard or subject
folders) to form an overall design or image. The stencil is then
placed on the "canvas" gently and with quick, easy strokes of the
aerosol can, the image begins to appear on the intended surface. This
method of graffiti is popular amongst artists because of its swift
technique that requires very little time. Time is always a factor with
graffiti artists due to the constant threat of being caught by law
The first graffiti shop in Russia was opened in 1992 in Tver
Graffiti artist at work at Eurofestival in Turku, Finland
Graffiti artist in Bucharest, Romania
Indian street artist uses natural pigments (mostly charcoal, plant
saps, and dirt)
Completed landscape scene, in Thrissur, Kerala, India
A graffiti artist at work in London
Knitted graffiti in Seattle, Washington
Spiderweb Yarnbomb Installation by Stephen Duneier both hides and
highlights previous graffiti.
Modern graffiti art often incorporates additional arts and
technologies. For example,
Graffiti Research Lab
Graffiti Research Lab has encouraged the
use of projected images and magnetic light-emitting diodes (throwies)
as new media for graffiti artists.
Yarnbombing is another recent form
of graffiti. Yarnbombers occasionally target previous graffiti for
modification, which had been avoided among the majority of graffiti
A tag in Dallas Tx. saying Spore
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A tagged Class 376 train at Cannon Street station
Some of the most common styles of graffiti have their own names. A tag
is the most basic writing of an artist's name; it is simply a
handstyle. A graffiti writer's tag is his or her personalized
signature. Tagging is often the example given when opponents of
graffiti refer to any acts of handstyle graffiti writing (it is by far
the most common form of graffiti). Tags can contain subtle and
sometimes cryptic messages, and may incorporate the artist's crew
initials or other letters.
One form of tagging, known as pissing, involves taking a refillable
fire-extinguisher and replacing the contents with paint, allowing for
tags as high as approximately 20 feet (6.1 m). Aiming and keeping
a handstyle steady in this form of tagging is very difficult, usually
coming out wavy and sloppy.
Another form is the throw-up, also known as a bombing, which is
normally painted very quickly with two or three colors, sacrificing
aesthetics for speed. Throw-ups can also be outlined on a surface with
one color. A piece is a more elaborate representation of the artist's
name, incorporating more stylized letters, usually incorporating a
much larger range of colors. This is more time-consuming and increases
the likelihood of the artist getting caught. A blockbuster or roller
is a large piece, almost always done in a block-shaped style, done
simply to cover a large area solidly with two contrasting colors,
sometimes with the whole purpose of blocking other writers from
painting on the same wall. These are usually accomplished with
extended paint rollers and gallons of cheap exterior paint.
A more complex style is wildstyle, a form of graffiti usually
involving interlocking letters and connecting points. These pieces are
often harder to read by non-graffiti artists as the letters merge into
one another in an often-undecipherable manner.
Some artists also use self-adhesive stickers as a quick way to do
catch ups. While certain critics from within graffiti culture consider
this lazy, stickers can be quite detailed in their own right and
often, are used in conjunction with other materials.
Sticker tags are
commonly executed on blank postage stickers, as these can easily be
acquired with no cost on the writer's part.
Many graffiti artists believe that doing complex pieces involves too
great an investment of time to justify the practice. Doing a piece can
take (depending on experience and size) from 30 minutes to months on
end, as was the case for Saber MSK while working on the world's
largest graffiti piece on the LA river.
Another graffiti artist can go over a piece in a matter of minutes
with a simple throw-up. This was exemplified by the writer "CAP" in
the documentary Style Wars, who, other writers complain, ruins pieces
with his quick throw ups. This became known as capping and often is
done when there is a "beef", or conflict between writers.
A number of recent examples of graffiti make use of hashtags.
Densely-tagged parking area in Århus, Denmark
Theories on the use of graffiti by avant-garde artists have a history
dating back at least to the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative
Vandalism in 1961.
Many contemporary analysts and even art critics have begun to see
artistic value in some graffiti and to recognize it as a form of
public art. According to many art researchers, particularly in the
Netherlands and in Los Angeles, that type of public art is, in fact an
effective tool of social emancipation or, in the achievement of a
The murals of
Belfast and of
Los Angeles offer another example of
official recognition. In times of conflict, such murals have
offered a means of communication and self-expression for members of
these socially, ethnically, or racially divided communities, and have
proven themselves as effective tools in establishing dialog and thus,
of addressing cleavages in the long run. The
Berlin Wall was also
extensively covered by graffiti reflecting social pressures relating
to the oppressive Soviet rule over the GDR.
Many artists involved with graffiti are also concerned with the
similar activity of stenciling. Essentially, this entails stenciling a
print of one or more colors using spray-paint. Recognized while
exhibiting and publishing several of her coloured stencils and
paintings portraying the
Sri Lankan Civil War
Sri Lankan Civil War and urban Britain in the
early 2000s, graffiti artist Mathangi Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A., has
also become known for integrating her imagery of political violence
into her music videos for singles "Galang" and "Bucky Done Gun", and
her cover art. Stickers of her artwork also often appear around places
London in Brick Lane, stuck to lamp posts and street signs,
she having become a muse for other graffiti artists and painters
worldwide in cities including Seville.
Graffiti artist John
Fekner, called "caption writer to the urban environment, adman for the
opposition" by writer Lucy Lippard, was involved in direct art
interventions within New York City's decaying urban environment in the
mid-1970s through the 1980s. Fekner is known for his word
installations targeting social and political issues, stenciled on
buildings throughout New York.
Graffiti artists constantly have the looming threat of facing
consequences for displaying their graffiti. Many choose to protect
their identities and reputation by remaining anonymous.
With the commercialization of graffiti (and hip hop in general), in
most cases, even with legally painted "graffiti" art, graffiti artists
tend to choose anonymity. This may be attributed to various reasons or
a combination of reasons.
Graffiti still remains the one of four hip
hop elements that is not considered "performance art" despite the
image of the "singing and dancing star" that sells hip hop culture to
the mainstream. Being a graphic form of art, it might also be said
that many graffiti artists still fall in the category of the
introverted archetypal artist.
Banksy is one of the world's most notorious and popular street artists
who continues to remain faceless in today's society. He is known
for his political, anti-war stencil art mainly in Bristol, England,
but his work may be seen anywhere from
Los Angeles to Palestine. In
Banksy is the most recognizable icon for this cultural
artistic movement and keeps his identity a secret to avoid arrest.
Much of Banksy's artwork may be seen around the streets of
surrounding suburbs, although he has painted pictures throughout the
world, including the Middle East, where he has painted on Israel's
West Bank barrier with satirical images of life on the
other side. One depicted a hole in the wall with an idyllic beach,
while another shows a mountain landscape on the other side. A number
of exhibitions also have taken place since 2000, and recent works of
art have fetched vast sums of money. Banksy's art is a prime example
of the classic controversy: vandalism vs. art. Art supporters endorse
his work distributed in urban areas as pieces of art and some
councils, such as
Bristol and Islington, have officially protected
them, while officials of other areas have deemed his work to be
vandalism and have removed it.
Pixnit is another artist who chooses to keep her identity from the
general public. Her work focuses on beauty and design aspects of
graffiti as opposed to Banksy's anti-government shock value. Her
paintings are often of flower designs above shops and stores in her
local urban area of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Some store owners
endorse her work and encourage others to do similar work as well. "One
of the pieces was left up above Steve's Kitchen, because it looks
pretty awesome"- Erin Scott, the manager of
New England Comics in
Allston, Massachusetts.
Drawing at Temple of Philae, Egypt depicting three men with rods, or
Pompeii lamenting a frustrated love, "Whoever loves,
let him flourish, let him perish who knows not love, let him perish
twice over whoever forbids love."
Mermaid in Sliema, Malta
Radical and political
Black bloc members spray graffiti on a wall during an Iraq War Protest
in Washington, D.C.
Graffiti often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels
against authority, although the considerations of the practitioners
often diverge and can relate to a wide range of attitudes. It can
express a political practice and can form just one tool in an array of
resistance techniques. One early example includes the anarcho-punk
band Crass, who conducted a campaign of stenciling anti-war,
anarchist, feminist, and anti-consumerist messages throughout the
London Underground system during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Amsterdam graffiti was a major part of the punk scene. The city was
covered with names such as "De Zoot", "Vendex", and "Dr Rat". To
document the graffiti a punk magazine was started that was called
Gallery Anus. So when hip hop came to Europe in the early 1980s there
was already a vibrant graffiti culture.
The student protests and general strike of May 1968 saw
in revolutionary, anarchistic, and situationist slogans such as
L'ennui est contre-révolutionnaire ("Boredom is
counterrevolutionary") and Lisez moins, vivez plus ("Read less, live
more"). While not exhaustive, the graffiti gave a sense of the
'millenarian' and rebellious spirit, tempered with a good deal of
verbal wit, of the strikers.
"I think graffiti writing is a way of defining what our generation is
like. Excuse the French, we're not a bunch of p---- artists.
Traditionally artists have been considered soft and mellow people, a
little bit kooky. Maybe we're a little bit more like pirates that way.
We defend our territory, whatever space we steal to paint on, we
defend it fiercely."
Sandra "Lady Pink" Fabara
The developments of graffiti art which took place in art galleries and
colleges as well as "on the street" or "underground", contributed to
the resurfacing in the 1990s of a far more overtly politicized art
form in the subvertising, culture jamming, or tactical media
movements. These movements or styles tend to classify the artists by
their relationship to their social and economic contexts, since, in
most countries, graffiti art remains illegal in many forms except when
using non-permanent paint. Since the 1990s a growing number of artists
are switching to non-permanent paints for a variety
of reasons—but primarily because is it difficult for the police to
apprehend them and for the courts to sentence or even convict a person
for a protest that is as fleeting and less intrusive than marching in
the streets. In some communities, such impermanent works survive
longer than works created with permanent paints because the community
views the work in the same vein as that of the civil protester who
marches in the street—such protest are impermanent, but effective
In some areas where a number of artists share the impermanence ideal,
an informal competition develops: the length of time that a work
escapes destruction is viewed as a measure of the respect the work
garners in the community. A crude work that deserves little respect
would be invariably removed immediately, while the most talented
artists might have works last for days.
Contemporary practitioners, accordingly, have varied and often
conflicting practices. Some individuals, such as Alexander Brener,
have used the medium to politicize other art forms, and have used the
prison sentences enforced on them as a means of further protest.
The practices of anonymous groups and individuals also vary widely,
and practitioners by no means always agree with each other's
practices. For example, the anti-capitalist art group the Space
Hijackers did a piece in 2004 about the contradiction between the
capitalistic elements of
Banksy and his use of political
On top of the political aspect of graffiti as a movement, political
groups and individuals may also use graffiti as a tool to spread their
point of view. This practice, due to its illegality, has generally
become favored by groups excluded from the political mainstream (e.g.
far-left or far-right groups) who justify their activity by pointing
out that they do not have the money – or sometimes the desire – to
buy advertising to get their message across, and that a "ruling class"
or "establishment" controls the mainstream press, systematically
excluding the radical and alternative point of view. This type of
graffiti can seem crude; for example fascist supporters often scrawl
swastikas and other Nazi images.
One innovative form of graffiti that emerged in the UK in the 1970s
was devised by the Money Liberation Front (MLF), essentially a loose
affiliation of underground press writers such as the poet and
Heathcote Williams and magazine editor and playwright Jay
Jeff Jones. They initiated the use of paper currency as a medium for
counterculture propaganda, overprinting banknotes, usually with a John
Bull printing set. Although short lived, the MLF was representative of
Ladbroke Grove centered alternative and literary community of
the period. The area was also a scene of considerable
anti-establishment and humorous street graffiti, much of which is also
produced by Williams.[dead link] In 2009, following the elections
in Iran, protesters (who regarded the electoral result as rigged)
began to deface banknotes with slogans such as "Death to the
dictator". In Colombia writing and drawing on banknotes has become
increasingly popular, either to make political comments, for fun or as
an artistic medium. The national government has run advertising
campaigns in an attempt to discourage the practice. In the UK there
have been signs of an MLF resurgence with a number of banknotes in
circulation being over-marked with protest slogans such as
"Banks=Robbers", relating to the perceived culpability of banks in the
Both sides of the conflict in
Northern Ireland produce political
graffiti. As well as slogans, Northern Irish political graffiti
includes large wall paintings, referred to as murals. Along with the
flying of flags and the painting of kerb stones, the murals serve a
territorial purpose, often associated with gang use. Artists paint
them mostly on house gables or on the Peace Lines, high walls that
separate different communities.
The murals often develop over an extended period and tend to
stylization, with a strong symbolic or iconographic content. Loyalist
murals often refer to historical events dating from the war between
James II and William III in the late seventeenth century, whereas
Republican murals usually refer to the more recent troubles.
Territorial graffiti marks urban neighborhoods with tags and logos to
differentiate certain groups from others. These images are meant to
show outsiders a stern look at whose turf is whose. The subject matter
of gang-related graffiti consists of cryptic symbols and initials
strictly fashioned with unique calligraphies. Gang members use
graffiti to designate membership throughout the gang, to differentiate
rivals and associates and, most commonly, to mark borders which are
both territorial and ideological.
Political graffiti around the world
Wall in Nablus, West Bank, Palestine (2011)
Wall in Sremska Street in Belgrade, Serbia, with the slogan "Vote for
Filip Filipović", who was the communist candidate for the mayor of
An interpretation of
Liberty Leading the People
Liberty Leading the People on the separation
barrier which runs through Bethlehem
WWII bunker near
Anhalter Bahnhof (Berlin) with a graffiti inscription
Wer Bunker baut, wirft Bomben (those who build bunkers, throw bombs)
Gates in a peace line in West Belfast, marking the boundary between
segregated communities in Northern Ireland
Graffiti on the train line leading to Central Station in Amsterdam
"Let's JOKK" in
Tartu refers to political scandal with the Estonian
Reform Party (2012)
Mural tribute to Cambodian revolutionary leader
Pol Pot in Sundsvall,
"R-evolution" stencil pro-Putin graffito in Moscow, Russia (2012)
Egyptian stencil combining a Pharaonic image with a Guy Fawkes mask
Pieksämäki representing former president of Finland, Urho
Kekkonen, well known in Finnish popular culture
Peace symbol added to traffic sign
Feminist graffiti in A Coruña, Spain that reads in Galician: "Keep
your rosaries off our ovaries"
East Timorese protest against Australian petroleum extraction
Graffiti as a method of expressing sexual orientation in Montclair,
Picture of two
Eastern Bloc leaders kissing, on the
Ironic graffiti in Bethlehem
This Polish graffiti asks, "Do you belong to the herd?"
Protest stencil in
Cairo, Egypt (2011)
Berlin Wall: "Anyone who wants to keep the world as it is, does not
want it to remain"
Joseph Stalin and
Adolf Hitler with sign
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Graffiti has been used as a means of advertising both legally and
TATS CRU has made a name for themselves doing
legal advertising campaigns for companies such as Coca-Cola,
McDonald's, Toyota, and MTV. In the UK, Covent Garden's
stencil images of a Zapatista revolutionary in the hopes that cross
referencing would promote their store.
Tech Giants Hewlett Packard used graffiti company
Graffiti Kings based
London to showcase the creative use for their Sprout computer by
producing a video, during the video Hewlett Packard showed many pieces
of graffiti art while the
Graffiti Kings artist used the Sprout
computer to draw digital graffiti.
Smirnoff hired artists to
use reverse graffiti (the use of high pressure hoses to clean dirty
surfaces to leave a clean image in the surrounding dirt) to increase
awareness of their product.
Shepard Fairey rose to fame after his
"Andre the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign, in which his art was
plastered in cities throughout America.
Many graffiti artists see legal advertising as no more than "paid for
and legalised graffiti", and have risen against mainstream ads. The
Graffiti Research Lab
Graffiti Research Lab crew have gone on to target several prominent
ads in New York as a means of making a statement against this
Ancient Pompeiian graffiti advertising by a pimp
Graffiti as advertising in Haikou,
Hainan Province, China, which is an
extremely common form of graffiti seen throughout the country
Graffiti as legal advertising on a grocer's shop window in Warsaw,
Gang symbol markings on public property, Millwood, Washington
Graffiti may also be used as an offensive expression. This form of
graffiti may be difficult to identify, as it is mostly removed by the
local authority (as councils which have adopted strategies of
criminalization also strive to remove graffiti quickly).
Therefore, existing racist graffiti is mostly more subtle and at first
sight, not easily recognized as "racist". It can then only be
understood if one knows the relevant "local code" (social, historical,
political, temporal, and spatial), which is seen as heteroglot and
thus an 'unique set of conditions' in a cultural context.
A spatial code for example, could be that there is a certain youth
group in an area that is engaging heavily in racist activities. So,
for residents (knowing the local code), a graffiti containing only the
name or abbreviation of this gang already is a racist expression,
reminding the offended people of their gang activities. Also a
graffiti is in most cases, the herald of more serious criminal
activity to come. A person who does not know these gang activities
would not be able to recognize the meaning of this graffiti. Also if a
tag of this youth group or gang is placed on a building occupied by
asylum seekers, for example, its racist character is even stronger.
Hence, the lack of obvious racist graffiti does not necessarily mean
that there is none. By making the graffiti less explicit (as adapted
to social and legal constraints), these drawings are less likely
to be removed, but do not lose their threatening and offensive
Elsewhere, activists in Russia have used painted caricatures of local
officials with their mouths as potholes, to show their anger about the
poor state of the roads. In
Manchester, England a graffiti artist
painted obscene images around potholes, which often resulted in their
being repaired within 48 hours.
Decorative and high art
Main article: Street art
A bronze work by Jonesy on a wall in
Brick Lane (London). Diameter
about 8 cm.
In the early 1980s, the first art galleries to show graffiti artists
to the public were
Fashion Moda in the Bronx and
Now Gallery in the
East Village, Manhattan.
A 2006 exhibition at the
Brooklyn Museum displayed graffiti as an art
form that began in New York's outer boroughs and reached great heights
in the early 1980s with the work of Crash, Lee, Daze, Keith Haring,
and Jean-Michel Basquiat. It displayed 22 works by New York graffiti
artists, including Crash, Daze, and Lady Pink. In an article about the
exhibition in the magazine Time Out, curator Charlotta Kotik said that
she hoped the exhibition would cause viewers to rethink their
assumptions about graffiti. Terrance Lindall, an artist and executive
director of the Williamsburg Art and Historic Center, said regarding
graffiti and the exhibition:
Graffiti is revolutionary, in my opinion", he says, "and any
revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or
suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it's free."
From the 1970s onwards,
Burhan Dogancay photographed urban walls all
over the world; these he then archived for use as sources of
inspiration for his painterly works. The project today known as "Walls
of the World" grew beyond even his own expectations and comprises
about 30’000 individual images. It spans a period of 40 years across
five continents and 114 countries. In 1982, photographs from this
project comprised a one-man exhibition titled "Les murs murmurent, ils
crient, ils chantent..." (The walls whisper, shout and sing...) at the
Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
In Australia, art historians have judged some local graffiti of
sufficient creative merit to rank them firmly within the arts. Oxford
University Press's art history text Australian Painting 1788–2000
concludes with a long discussion of graffiti's key place within
contemporary visual culture, including the work of several Australian
Between March and April 2009, 150 artists exhibited 300 pieces of
graffiti at the
Grand Palais in
Paris — a clear acceptance of the
art form into the French art world.
Many graffiti artists have used their design talents in other artistic
endeavors. In 2009 graffiti artist "Scape" published GRAFF; the Art
& Technique of Graffiti, the world's first book dedicated to
displaying the full techniques of creating graffiti art. Other books
that focus on graffiti include Faith of
Graffiti by Norman Mailer,
Trespass by Taschen press, and the comic book by Elite Gudz,
Concrete Immortalz, which has a graffiti artist as its main character.
Figurines by KAWS, featuring icons of pop culture, often with
crossed-out eyes, run in limited editions and sell for thousands of
dollars. World-renowned street artist
Banksy directed a film in
2010, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which explored street art and
Street art graffiti
Miss Van and Ciou in Barcelona
Graffiti in Buenos Aires, showing the Obelisk
Return of the three funny types by Dutch graffiti artist Ces53
Graffiti No false move in Hamburg
Decorative wall painting at Elisabethmarkt in Munich
Wall art in Warsaw
This artwork makes use of existing windows in Olinda, Pernambuco,
This is said to be the tallest graffiti in the world, at
Graffiti in Batumi, Georgia
Spray paint has many negative environmental effects. The paint
contains toxic chemicals, and the can uses chlorofluorocarbons or
volatile hydrocarbon gases to spray the paint unto a surface.[citation
needed] As an alternative, moss graffiti is starting to catch on,
which uses moss to create text or images. The moss is glued onto a
surface by means of beer, buttermilk, or yogurt combined with
Mao Zedong in the 1920s used revolutionary slogans and
paintings in public places to galvanise the country's communist
In Hong Kong,
Tsang Tsou Choi
Tsang Tsou Choi was known as the King of Kowloon for his
calligraphy graffiti over many years, in which he claimed ownership of
the area. Now some of his work is preserved officially.
In Taiwan, the government has made some concessions to graffiti
artists. Since 2005 they have been allowed to freely display their
work along some sections of riverside retaining walls in designated
Graffiti Zones". From 2007, Taipei's department of cultural
affairs also began permitting graffiti on fences around major public
construction sites. Department head Yong-ping Lee (李永萍) stated,
"We will promote graffiti starting with the public sector, and then
later in the private sector too. It's our goal to beautify the city
with graffiti". The government later helped organize a graffiti
contest in Ximending, a popular shopping district.
caught working outside of these designated areas still face fines up
to $6,000 TWD under a department of environmental protection
regulation. However, Taiwanese authorities can be relatively
lenient, one veteran police officer stating anonymously, "Unless
someone complains about vandalism, we won't get involved. We don't go
after it proactively."
In 1993 in
Singapore after several expensive cars were spray-painted,
the police arrested a student from the
Singapore American School,
Michael P. Fay, questioned him, and subsequently charged him with
vandalism. Fay pleaded guilty to vandalizing a car in addition to
stealing road signs. Under the 1966
Vandalism Act of Singapore,
originally passed to curb the spread of communist graffiti in
Singapore, the court sentenced him to four months in jail, a fine of
S$3,500 (US$2,233), and a caning.
The New York Times
The New York Times ran several
editorials and op-eds that condemned the punishment and called on the
American public to flood the Singaporean embassy with protests.
Singapore government received many calls for clemency,
Fay's caning took place in
Singapore on 5 May 1994. Fay had originally
received a sentence of six strokes of the cane, but the presiding
president of Singapore, Ong Teng Cheong, agreed to reduce his caning
sentence to four lashes.
In South Korea, Park Jung-soo was fined 2 million
South Korean won
South Korean won by
Seoul Central District Court for spray-painting a rat on posters
G-20 Summit a few days before the event in November 2011. Park
alleged that the initial in "G-20" sounds like the Korean word for
"rat", but Korean government prosecutors alleged that Mr. Park was
making a derogatory statement about the president of ROK, Lee
Myung-bak, the host of the summit. This case led to public outcry and
debate on the lack of government tolerance and in support of freedom
of expression. The court ruled that the painting, "an ominous creature
like a rat" amounts to "an organized criminal activity" and upheld the
fine while denying the prosecution's request for imprisonment for
Graffiti in Asia
Street art in poetic form in Hualien City, Taiwan
Sign designating a sanctioned graffiti zone in Taipei
Street graffiti in Hong Kong
Graffiti Piece "Tante" (by Chen Dongfan) on the surface wall of an
old residential building in Hangzhou, Zhejiang
In Haikou, Hainan
Graffiti removal in Berlin
In Europe, community cleaning squads have responded to graffiti, in
some cases with reckless abandon, as when in 1992 in France a local
Scout group, attempting to remove modern graffiti, damaged two
prehistoric paintings of bison in the Cave of Mayrière supérieure
near the French village of
Bruniquel in Tarn-et-Garonne, earning them
Ig Nobel Prize
Ig Nobel Prize in archeology.
In September 2006, the European Parliament directed the European
Commission to create urban environment policies to prevent and
eliminate dirt, litter, graffiti, animal excrement, and excessive
noise from domestic and vehicular music systems in European cities,
along with other concerns over urban life.
Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003
Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 became Britain's latest
anti-graffiti legislation. In August 2004, the Keep Britain Tidy
campaign issued a press release calling for zero tolerance of graffiti
and supporting proposals such as issuing "on the spot" fines to
graffiti offenders and banning the sale of aerosol paint to anyone
under the age of 16. The press release also condemned the use of
graffiti images in advertising and in music videos, arguing that
real-world experience of graffiti stood far removed from its
often-portrayed 'cool' or 'edgy' image.
To back the campaign, 123 MPs (including then
Prime Minister Tony
Blair), signed a charter which stated: "
Graffiti is not art, it's
crime. On behalf of my constituents, I will do all I can to rid our
community of this problem." However, since the early 1990s, the
British graffiti scene has been struck by self-titled "art terrorist"
Banksy, who has revolutionized the style of UK graffiti (bringing to
the forefront stencils to aid the speed of painting), as well as the
content; making his work largely satirical of the sociological state
of cities, or the political climate of war, often using monkeys and
rats as motifs.
In the UK, city councils have the power to take action against the
owner of any property that has been defaced under the Anti-social
Behaviour Act 2003 (as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and
Environment Act 2005) or, in certain cases, the Highways Act. This is
often used against owners of property that are complacent in allowing
protective boards to be defaced so long as the property is not
In July 2008, a conspiracy charge was used to convict graffiti artists
for the first time. After a three-month police surveillance
operation, nine members of the DPM crew were convicted of
conspiracy to commit criminal damage costing at least £1 million.
Five of them received prison sentences, ranging from eighteen months
to two years. The unprecedented scale of the investigation and the
severity of the sentences rekindled public debate over whether
graffiti should be considered art or crime.
Some councils, like those of Stroud and Loerrach, provide approved
areas in the town where graffiti artists can showcase their talents,
including underpasses, car parks, and walls that might otherwise prove
a target for the 'spray and run.'
In Budapest, Hungary both a city-backed movement called I Love
Budapest and a special police division tackle the problem, including
the provision of approved areas.
Graffiti in Europe
"Approved" graffiti at Bridge-Gallery Loerrach, Germany
19Ž44 logo of Lithuania
Graffiti in London, United Kingdom
Graffiti tag in Germany
Graffiti tag in Melitopol, Ukraine
Multi-artist graffiti in Barcelona, Spain
Integration of graffiti into its environment,
Graffiti made by school children in Rijeka, Croatia
Graffiti written in Georgian script, Tbilisi
Historical graffito of
Gavrilo Princip in Belgrade, Serbia
University of Sydney
University of Sydney at Camperdown (2009)
In an effort to reduce vandalism, many cities in Australia have
designated walls or areas exclusively for use by graffiti artists. One
early example is the "
Graffiti Tunnel" located at the Camperdown
Campus of the University of Sydney, which is available for use by any
student at the university to tag, advertise, poster, and create "art".
Advocates of this idea suggest that this discourages petty vandalism
yet encourages artists to take their time and produce great art,
without worry of being caught or arrested for vandalism or
trespassing. Others disagree with this approach, arguing that
the presence of legal graffiti walls does not demonstrably reduce
illegal graffiti elsewhere. Some local government areas throughout
Australia have introduced "anti-graffiti squads", who clean graffiti
in the area, and such crews as BCW (Buffers Can't Win) have taken
steps to keep one step ahead of local graffiti cleaners.
Many state governments have banned the sale or possession of spray
paint to those under the age of 18 (age of majority). However, a
number of local governments in Victoria have taken steps to recognize
the cultural heritage value of some examples of graffiti, such as
prominent political graffiti. Tough new graffiti laws have been
introduced in Australia with fines of up to A$26,000 and two years in
Melbourne is a prominent graffiti city of Australia with many of its
lanes being tourist attractions, such as Hosier Lane in particular, a
popular destination for photographers, wedding photography, and
backdrops for corporate print advertising. The
Lonely Planet travel
guide cites Melbourne's street as a major attraction. All forms of
graffiti, including sticker art, poster, stencil art, and
wheatpasting, can be found in many places throughout the city.
Prominent street art precincts include; Fitzroy, Collingwood,
Northcote, Brunswick, St. Kilda, and the CBD, where stencil and
sticker art is prominent. As one moves farther away from the city,
mostly along suburban train lines, graffiti tags become more
prominent. Many international artists such as
Banksy have left their
Melbourne and in early 2008 a perspex screen was installed to
Banksy stencil art piece from being destroyed, it has
survived since 2003 through the respect of local street artists
avoiding posting over it, although it has recently had paint tipped
Former Christchurch stock yards
In February 2008 Helen Clark, the New Zealand prime minister at that
time, announced a government crackdown on tagging and other forms of
graffiti vandalism, describing it as a destructive crime representing
an invasion of public and private property. New legislation
subsequently adopted included a ban on the sale of paint spray cans to
persons under 18 and increases in maximum fines for the offence from
NZ$200 to NZ$2,000 or extended community service. The issue of tagging
become a widely debated one following an incident in
January 2008 in which a middle-aged property owner stabbed one of two
teenage taggers to death and was subsequently convicted of
Graffiti in the United States
Graffiti databases have increased in the past decade because they
allow vandalism incidents to be fully documented against an offender
and help the police and prosecution charge and prosecute offenders for
multiple counts of vandalism. They also provide law enforcement the
ability to rapidly search for an offender’s moniker or tag in a
simple, effective, and comprehensive way. These systems can also help
track costs of damage to city to help allocate an anti-graffiti
budget. The theory is that when an offender is caught putting up
graffiti, they are not just charged with one count of vandalism; they
can be held accountable for all of the other damage for which they are
responsible. This has two main benefits for law enforcement. One, it
sends a signal to the offenders that their vandalism is being tracked.
Two, a city can seek restitution from offenders for all of the damage
that they have committed, not merely a single incident. These systems
give law enforcement personnel real-time, street-level intelligence
that allows them to not only focus on the worst graffiti offenders and
their damage, but also to monitor potential gang violence that is
associated with the graffiti.
Many restrictions of civil gang injunctions are designed to help
address and protect the physical environment and limit graffiti.
Provisions of gang injunctions include things such as restricting the
possession of marker pens, spray paint cans, or other sharp objects
capable of defacing private or public property; spray painting, or
marking with marker pens, scratching, applying stickers, or otherwise
applying graffiti on any public or private property, including, but
not limited to the street, alley, residences, block walls, and fences,
vehicles and/or any other real or personal property. Some injunctions
contain wording that restricts damaging or vandalizing the property of
another, both public and private property, including, but limited to
any vehicle, light fixture, door, fence, wall, gate, window, building,
street sign, utility box, telephone box, trees, or power pole.
Hotlines and reward programs
To help address many of these issues, many local jurisdictions have
set up graffiti abatement hotlines, where citizens can call in and
report vandalism and have it removed. San Diego’s hotline receives
more than 5,000 calls per year, in addition to reporting the graffiti,
callers can learn more about prevention. One of the complaints about
these hotlines is the response time; there is often a lag time between
a property owner calling about the graffiti and its removal. The
length of delay should be a consideration for any jurisdiction
planning on operating a hotline. Local jurisdictions must convince the
callers that their complaint of vandalism will be a priority and
cleaned off right away. If the jurisdiction does not have the
resources to respond to complaints in a timely manner, the value of
the hotline diminishes. Crews must be able to respond to individual
service calls made to the graffiti hotline as well as focus on cleanup
near schools, parks, and major intersections and transit routes to
have the biggest impact. Some cities offer a reward for information
leading to the arrest and prosecution of suspects for tagging or
graffiti related vandalism. The amount of the reward is based on the
information provided, and the action taken.
When the police use search warrants in connection with a vandalism
investigation they are often seeking judicial approval to look for
items such as cans of spray paint and nozzles from other kinds of
aerosol sprays, etching tools, or other sharp or pointed objects used
to etch or scratch glass and other hard surfaces, such as permanent
marking pens and markers or paint sticks; evidence of membership or
affiliation with any gang or tagging crew, paraphernalia to include
any reference to "(tagger’s name)," and any drawings, writings,
objects, or graffiti depicting taggers’ names, initials, logos,
monikers, slogans, or mention of tagging crew membership; any
newspaper clippings relating details of or referring to any graffiti
Graffiti in the United States
Rampant graffiti hampers visibility into and out of subway cars (1973)
Graffiti-lined tunnel in San Francisco
Los Angeles (2006)
Anti-governmental graffiti in Bolinas, California
Protest art in Memphis, Tennessee
80 Blocks from Tiffany's (1979) – A rare glimpse into late 1970s New
York toward the end of the infamous
South Bronx gangs, the documentary
shows many sides of the mainly Puerto Rican community of the South
Bronx, including reformed gang members, current gang members, the
police, and the community leaders who try to reach out to them.
Stations of the Elevated (1980), the earliest documentary about subway
graffiti in New York City, with music by Charles Mingus.
Style Wars (1983), an early documentary on hip hop culture, made in
New York City.
Piece by Piece (2005), a feature-length documentary on the history of
San Francisco graffiti from the early 1980s until the present day.
Infamy (2005), a feature-length documentary about graffiti culture as
told through the experiences of six well-known graffiti writers and a
NEXT: A Primer on Urban Painting (2005), a documentary about global
RASH (2005), a feature documentary about Melbourne, Australia and the
artists who make it a living host for illegal artwork called street
Bomb It (2007) is one of the most extensive and elaborate
documentations of the graffiti movement. Director
Jon Reiss shows old
and very rare original material some of the most well-known and best
graffiti artists in the world.
Jisoe (2007), a glimpse into the life of a Melbourne, Australia
graffiti writer, shows the audience an example of graffiti in
AlterEgo (2009) portrays 17 different graffiti artists in nine cities
from seven different countries. The protagonists talk about topics
including the motivation to use public space for their personal
expression and their view on the role of graffiti in the art
Roadsworth: Crossing the Line (2009) is a Canadian documentary about
Montréal artist Peter Gibson and his controversial stencil art on
Bomb It 2 (2010) was commissioned as a web series exclusively for the
digital broadcast network Babelgum and expands the global reach of Jon
Reiss’ exploration of graffiti and street art into new and
unexplored areas of Asia and South East Asia, the
Middle East as well
as Europe, the United States and Australia.
Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010) is a documentary produced by the
Banksy that tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a
French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art;
Shepard Fairey and Invader, whom Guetta discovers is his cousin, are
also in the film.
still on and non the wiser (2011) is a 90 minute long documentation
that accompanies the exhibition with the same name in the Kunsthalle
Barmen of the
Von der Heydt-Museum
Von der Heydt-Museum in
Wuppertal (Germany) draws vivid
portrays of the artists by means of very personal interviews and also
catches the creation process of the works before the exhibition was
Graffiti Wars (2011), documentary detailing King Robbo's feud with
Banksy as well as the authorities' differing attitude towards graffiti
and street art.
DeeVaaR, (2009) documentary about Iranian graffiti and street art
Wild Style (1983), a drama about hip hop and graffiti culture in New
Bomb the System
Bomb the System (2002), a drama about a crew of graffiti artists in
modern-day New York City
Quality of Life (2004), a graffiti drama shot in the Mission District
of San Francisco, starring and co-written by a retired graffiti writer
Wholetrain (2006), German film
Dawgtown, an upcoming animated film with an art style inspired by
The 2016 crime-thriller novel, The Fifth Streeter, incorporates urban
graffiti as a central plot device.
Kilroy was here
Mural Arts Program
Spray paint art
Graffiti post 2011 Egyptian Revolution
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Look up graffiti in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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