GRAFFITI IS ILLEGAL; now, let’s talk about it.

Let me just start with this…you were thinking, I was thinking it, so let’s just do it and get it over with! When I say “street art”, you automatically think “oh, he means graffiti”. Which I don’t…but I kinda do as well. You see graffiti most definitely fits the definition but it is not, by any means, the only medium of the topic. As I mentioned in my early post, I hope to broaden and sharpen your idea on exactly what street art is and also help you develop your own personal opinion on it all. That being said, I still thought we could start somewhere comfortable.

Zukie featured in a mural w/ other Artists

Graffiti: an official definition.

Webster gives the simple definition of graffiti as “pictures or words painted or drawn on a wall, building, etc.” Not much to go off of if you ask me. Luckily you have me as your trusty friend to set it all straight; GRAFFITI IS ILLEGAL. This statement may not come to you as a surprise but for this definition to remain true, then not every piece of art painted on a wall or building is graffiti. If it’s there with permission, then it’s a mural, it’s a painting, it’s a panorama, it’s whatever you want to call it except graffiti. For anything to be considered graffiti, it, first and foremost, has to be done illegally. This doesn’t mean you can’t make legal art in the style of graffiti however.

What does the law say?

In areas of high population, graffiti can become somewhat of a nuisance and a problem for government officials. New York laws state that:

“No person shall write, paint or draw any inscription, figure or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any other real or personal property owned, operated or maintained by a public benefit corporation, the city of New York or any agency or instrumentality thereof or by any person, firm, or corporation, or any personal property maintained
on a city street or other city-owned property pursuant to a franchise, concession or revocable consent granted by the city, unless the express permission of the owner or operator of the property has been obtained.”

Very wordy but I think you get the point that there is little wiggle room in related to attempts of art without granted permission.  These types of laws are very similar if not identical in other towns and cities. According to the law it is simply unethical to go around a markup something that isn’t yours.

What do the people say?

This is where the whole topic gets messy. Camps are made and we even get a few homeless wanderers that aren’t sure where they stand or tend to have some inconsistencies. This is basically all because of some variables. Variables such as artistic appeal, value of the art, location, are all reasons to affect the general public’s ideas. Of course victims of these crimes should have the most say in this matter and while most are upset with the vandalism, others’ property has increased in value and “some building owners have realized this and are safeguarding the works”.

Banksy Art

What do the artists say?

Zukie Collage

Of all the parties, this one at first glance seems to be the most biased. I mean, of course the artist is all for using other people’s property as their canvas. They support their own art why wouldn’t they want it up? This however is not true for all, at least not in terms of graffiti. Some artists are taking a new stand in this matter and holding their work at a high level of dignity and ethics. A perfect example for this would be Miss Zukie, a new York street artist with many pieces of her art up on the streets covering entire sides of buildings; not one of them illegal. She has worked on lots of art projects and sometimes simply contacts the property owners (or vice versa) for artistic opportunities. Success stories are not single sided and graffiti artsits such as Banksy are making a name for themselves as notorious exceptions. In fact, the NYPD has not even made attempts to arrest Banksy because they have yet to receive a complaint about his art work other people’s properties!


What do you say?

Give us some feedback o your opinion, experience, or expertise on the subject!


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