Graffiti: Is it Crime or Art? (5B Ng Yuen Ching, Victoria)


What is graffiti?  If you have seen some writing or drawing scribbled, scratched or sprayed on a wall or other surfaces in a public place, you have probably seen it already.  Though graffiti is becoming more popular lately, there has been controversy over whether graffiti is art.

Some say graffiti is art as it is a valuable form of self-expression that people convey emotions and opinions by painting anonymously.  Additionally, it brightens dull places and connects people through creative expressions. 

Graffiti also spreads positive messages.  Tuttomondo, which means “All World”, was created by Keith Haring in 1989.  He was invited to paint a street mural by a Pisan boy he met in New York.  Before starting to paint, he walked around the city to absorb its colours, vibrations and ideas, and then this hymn to love and harmony between humans, animals and nature was born. The hands on the artwork indicate the importance of working together, and the mother with the child represents motherly love.  Furthermore, he painted a snake, which was often translated into the fight against Aids, the disease that caused his death.  His painting not only represents the connection between people, but also his tenacity against an inscrutable disease.

Graffiti sometimes spreads positive messages, but its downsides should also be considered.  Graffiti is considered a gateway crime despite being an outlet of self-expression.  It is common for graffiti artists to create their murals without permission.  In most countries, painting on buildings without permission is considered vandalism and defacement.  It is likely that people, particularly teenagers, will attempt to commit such crimes as a result of the ease of creating graffiti.  This then increases their urge to commit other crimes such as drug dealing or gang activity.

One important thing to remember is that graffiti does not always convey positive messages.  Many graffiti works use foul language or racially offensive language.  There may be misconceptions instilled into teenagers and confrontations between races in the community as a result, leading to consequent crimes.

As creating graffiti is law-breaking and causes crimes, there is no doubt that graffiti is more a crime than art.