Graffiti—Art or Vandalism?

When we think of graffiti our minds often travel to the random words and symbols we see on bridges and in train stations. But graffiti is so much more than that.

Graffiti is an art form that is used by artists around the world. One of the most notorious graffiti artists is Banksy. Not too long ago, one of his works, “Girl with a balloon,” sold for $1.4 million dollars. Though, in classic Banksy fashion, he shredded the painting with a shredder implanted in the frame.

In Boston, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by so much creativity and ingenuity. All across the city, you see so many beautiful works of art from the MFA to the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Boston Commons. Also, we are lucky to have one of the most famous and recognized graffiti murals in Boston.

The Giant of Boston can be found in the financial district of Boston near South Station. The Giant of Boston is painted by OS Gemeos, a graffiti artist duo from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Graffiti originated in Philadelphia in the 60s and quickly spread to New York City, with artists like Taki 183.

Young people used spray paint to create art on the side of buildings, train cars, phone booths and other various objects around the city. The style can range from bright graphic images (wild style) to stylized monograms (tags).

From then, the graffiti movement grew alongside European Hip-Hop. Films and books started to normalize the art form, to the point of it becoming one of the biggest art movements in history.

By 1973, graffiti “writing” became competitive. The art style consisted mainly of “getting your name up.” Artists would fight to have the biggest and most tags on subway trains to become “King." 

After the MTA spent millions of dollars cleaning the trains, artists moved to painting walls. This started the mural movement across the world to where the movement is today, with artists like Banksy and OS Gemeos.

Despite, graffiti having such a rich culture rooted in so many cities around the world, it’s highly stigmatized. Graffiti artists are frequently arrested. Recently in Boston, two high profile artists were arrested and charged with felonies. Regardless of this kind of art being considered vandalism by so many, artists shouldn’t be charged with felonies.

Graffiti has such a rich history and culture that should be recognized. We shouldn’t deny an entire art form due to some negative opinions. When hasn’t art been evocative? When hasn’t art been used to send a message?


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