Graffiti has been around for as long as history dates back. It appeared in history in caves, temples, and catacombs, and has evolved with society to the sides of buildings, subway tunnels, and blank walls in cities. And while some graffiti is only a symbol for one gang or another, other graffiti is rich in both the visual and mental senses.
Over the years, the public opinion on graffiti has changed as well. Some say it’s a terrible defacement of public property (which it may well be at times), but it can also be much more—a work of art, often with a purpose.
As a whole, the style of graffiti is dominated by the use of short phrases, words, and cartoon-like pictures. In the past, graffiti artists may have carved into stone or utilized any form of color available. These days, it’s mostly done with spray paint and markers.
But while some works of graffiti are definitely worthy of being called art, it’s still a crime to deface public property—beautiful and complex or not. And when the majority of graffiti is simply gang tagging, it’s not hard to see why it can upset some. Despite the risk, graffiti has continued, and will continue on. For some, it’s about the risk; for others, it’s a way to express themselves and maybe gain some fame or power in the process.
Some of the more well-known graffiti artists have seen a significant change in society’s attitude toward them. Banksy, who is famous for his artwork on the London streets, has left works of art inside world-renowned museums—and some of those have been auctioned off for a pretty penny or two.
And while unsanctioned street art remains illegal, artists can make quite a bit of money crossing over into the legal realm. Museums, advertising campaigns, tattoo parlors, and more aren’t hesitating to pay the price for authentic street-inspired art. Slowly but surely, graffiti seems to be making its way into the mainstream masses.