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“Is graffiti an accepted form of art? If so, by when and whom was this accepted by?”

Is graffiti an accepted form of art? For starters we need to begin looking at what makes ‘Art' art. Art is a combination of form, function, theory, medium and the preceptor's personal views/opinions on the artwork itself. The last on the list is what enables art to become ‘subjective', which means we are allowed to like, or dislike art. Secondly, we need to take a look into the history books to find out when ‘graffiti' was first starting to be used , and the first signs which are obvious to me would be back into prehistoric (cavemen) times. And third, to answer the second part of the question, we need to look at who had the concluding decision if graffiti is an accepted art form.

The second part of the question is easier to answer first, as we all know that art is accepted by anyone as all art is subjective. So graffiti must have been accepted and denied by everyone who encountered the vast variety of different graffiti forms. For example, cavemen and women must have accepted their form of graffiti otherwise it wouldn't have continued. The same goes for the roman ‘vandalism'. There were people out there who saw and copied the ideas of these people. They saw them to be such important pieces culturally and historically, that they have been cut from walls and statues to be placed in museums for generations of people to see and appreciate (or unappreciated?). It is only been since the late 1970's that the underground Subway Art was globally appreciated by the public in huge numbers, that it spread across to Europe and Asia. Where people copied these forms, but due to the absence of subways, other mediums took their place such as walls, fences, and even motor vehicles.

To begin answering this question I think we should first look at the meaning of the word ‘Graffiti'. Originally, the word originates from the Greek language translating into ‘Graphein' “to write” and in Italian, (Phillips, 1996). Stahl (2009, p.6) states “Graffiti also derives from the Italian word “sgraffire”. “Sgraffitio” is a technique for decorating facades. The term “graffiti” was used in the mid-19th century, parallel to discovering scribbling and inscriptions on walls in Pompeii”.

However, there are many forms of graffiti one of which could be the origin of graffiti is cavemen art. Graffiti has been around a long time, cast into the walls of caves from our prehistoric ancestors. Although this was not achieved through can of spray paint, the mediums and functions were similar to today's graffiti art. Art is also a medium through which the artist can communicate their thoughts, ideas and theories to the ‘viewer' which is what the Stone Age people had achieved via their wall paintings.

Graffiti has no era from which it comes from so it is hard to tell where it was first being used as an art form, which seems to puzzle art historians. But it is clear to see where it has been used throughout history accidentally or maliciously. Art historians tend to leave the title of Graffiti Art out of the history books, however, since the 1970's Graffiti Art has become an Avant-Garde so it is quite difficult to keep it out of the history books. This is because of the strong arguments that all art should be public which was made possible through museums such as the Tate which allow free access to artworks. The argument here was trying to outline the difference between having a public piece of art inside a museum and on a public street wall and the question being is this acceptable or not? The problem faced is a connection between the, much more common, malicious, gang associated urban art with the much more contemporary, meaningful, theoretical graffiti art.

Since the late 70's graffiti has seen developments and different forms with the change of culture, technology and time. For example, Sao Paulo, Brazil has a completely unique style of graffiti. This is because cans of spray paint in Sao Paulo is extremely, so a different form has to be used, latex paint. The aesthetics of this type of paint looks completely different from spray. Another example of movement is by a unique artist known as ‘Space Invader'. Invader's whole approach to the graffiti mainstream is different. Invade creates small (no more than the size of your forearm) tiled mosaic installations onto the side of walls or signage's.

Progress through the graffiti ‘art movement' was at first, a non-profitable scheme, unlike its ‘older brother' art movements (Impressionism, Modernism etc.). Since the rise in mixed media graffiti pieces starting to enter the eyes of wealthy art punters, poor graffiti artists suddenly found a market for their works (especially in places/stores such as Santa's Ghetto, London). Artists could come here and present and sell their works openly to the public and was the first time this sort of branding and selling of work had been done in Europe.

However, it wasn't the first place that work was being sold. The first official starting point for selling graffiti art and their by-products was by a young artist called Andre Saraiva. Saraiva had become well known for his small characters known as Mr ‘A'. Saraiva was then arrested after his famous Love Graffiti, after this, wealthy businesses and merchants began to buy bespoke characters and logos off of him; some as little as $2500 per item. Many graffiti artist resented Saraiva for selling his work and viewing him as destroying the meaning of true Graffiti art. This movement to the more aesthetic and business side of the graffiti world made Saraiva a very successful entrepreneur by setting up an art store called BlackBlock in the modern art museum Palais de Tokyo. Other products Saraiva started to produce were chocolates, action figures, trainers, and fashion products. A large amount of artists, however, many artists have admired Saraiva's work and Pieter (2009) quotes from Saraiva's interview:

“...why shouldn't graffiti artists do commercial deals? I don't mind that they are finally making money now, as long as they ask a lot for it, because graffiti artists have done so much for free in the past.” (Pieter and Saraiva 2009, p.65)


Phillips, S A (1996) Graffiti Definition: The Dictionary of Art [On-line] UK: Available from [Accessed: 20 February 2010].

Stahl, J. (2009) Street Art English EditionChina: H.F. Ullmann Publishing.

Peiter, S. (2009) Guerilla Art 1st Edition China: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Peiter, S and Saraiva, A (2009) Andre ch.9, p.65

Peiter, S. (2009) Guerilla Art 1st Edition China: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Potter, P (2008) Untitled. Street Art In The Counter Culture China: Pro-Actif Comminications

Banksy (2005) Banksy Wall And Piece Germany (by Appl Druck): Century