Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism? Unveiling the Beauty Beyond the Spray Can

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Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism? Unveiling the Beauty Beyond the Spray Can

This essay will discuss the debate over graffiti as art or vandalism. It will explore graffiti’s artistic elements, its role in urban culture, and the legal and ethical considerations of graffiti as a form of public expression. Additionally, PapersOwl presents more free essays samples linked to Visual Arts.

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Beyond Vandalism: Graffiti as a Vibrant Voice of Expression

Walking down a street in Los Angeles, an eye-catching drawing of colorful wings is seen on a building. Throughout a lifetime, one has undoubtedly passed by a wall covered with spray-painted letters or drawings, which we refer to as graffiti. Graffiti is a picture that is scribbled or sprayed on a surface, such as a wall, in public. It is practiced all over the world by many different people. Many graffiti artists earn respect through their created artworks.

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However, many people disagree and believe that graffiti artists should instead earn a trip to jail for vandalism. Although they believe graffiti is vandalism, graffiti is actually art because it allows artists to express themselves, it is appreciated just as much as other arts are, and it has become a part of the culture in many places.

Graffiti allows artists to express themselves, and it gives them a voice through their works. Commonly, graffiti is thought of as words or letters, but graffiti also has the ability to be colorful, and it enables artists to show their creativity to the public. People say that there are other ways to express themselves, such as a peaceful petition, a sign or billboard, or creating a video or post expressing their thoughts. These are indeed ways to get one’s voice and thoughts out to the public. However, their feelings are most likely going to be ignored and overlooked. Pedestrians are most likely to stop and look at a beautiful, big, and colorful piece of art by a graffiti artist rather than a sign stating an idea. Not to mention, many third-world countries forbid the media from portraying their thoughts on what is happening in the country. The result is graffiti immediately becomes the most efficient way for artists to express their feelings, show their thoughts, and bring to everyone a realization of what is happening in their country (“Graffiti a Form”).

Should Graffiti Be Protected? Recognizing Street Art’s Place in the Pantheon of Fine Arts

Although never thought about, graffiti is also art because it is appreciated just as much as any other art piece. Take, for instance, the museum in Berlin dedicated exclusively to graffiti pieces. Furthermore, the piece “Girl with Balloon” by Banksy was placed in a museum like a traditional painting would be. Additionally, there are graffiti artists that are more well-known than artists who use a canvas. In fact, graffiti art pieces are sold in auctions similar to other art pieces. One piece, “Untitled” by Jean-Michel Basquiat, was sold for approximately one hundred million dollars. The price of this painting is comparable to one of Picasso’s art pieces, sold for around one hundred and six million dollars. It must not be forgotten that many enjoy looking at different art pieces, but many also enjoy looking at graffiti as well. If one was to go down the streets of Hollywood, there would be a very high chance of spotting a small stand selling graffiti pieces on the side of the streets. People enjoy this as well because some pieces are made right in front of an audience, amazing them as they watch the artist work with precision and skill. However, there are also many that disagree and state that “a five-year-old can do that,” and there is not anything fascinating about the drawings. Truth be told, graffiti is not created effortlessly (“Graffiti – The Art”). Graffiti is not easy for many, and the creators are self-taught artists who have never attended an art school (“The Struggle Between”). For example, graffiti artist Basquiat was self-taught, while other artists had teachers or were apprenticed, such as Leonardo Da Vinci.

Graffiti’s Cultural Imprint: Beyond Vandalism to Vibrant Urban Expression

It has become a part of the culture in many places. Take Los Angeles as an example; it is known for its graffiti which can be found on every corner. The community cannot imagine L.A. without its graffiti. Graffiti artists describe L.A.’s graffiti as special, one-of-a-kind, and art exclusive to this city. According to them, “people who grew up in L.A. carry their own tradition and influence,” which is seen noticeable in their works (“How L.A.’s Graffiti”). Furthermore, the tourism rate has also increased due to the graffiti in the city and has brought many lifeless cities back to their full form (“Street Art Positively”). In addition, many residents consider the city dull and boring without colorful paintings. Those who disagree with graffiti argue that it is too costly for the cities to cover up the graffiti, and spending almost seven million dollars each year to cover paintings on the wall is outrageous (“Graffiti in Lost”). Although cities do spend a large sum of money, it is pointless to attempt to cover up graffiti drawings. Graffiti artists refuse to allow their works to be covered and will draw over their previously painted work. They will not let their voice be covered up, concluding that any effort to get rid of graffiti is meaningless (“Graffiti in Los”).

Considering that graffiti allows artists to express themselves, it is appreciated just as much as other arts are, and it has become a part of the culture in many places; it should be thought of as art. The next time a drawing on the wall is seen, it is to be admired rather than glared at with dislike. Art is expressing one’s creative skills to make works that should be acknowledged for their uniqueness and the meaning behind them. Even if graffiti is drawn on walls with different techniques, graffiti fits the description of art perfectly.


  1. Banksy. “Wall and Piece.” Century, 2005.
  2. Castleman, Craig. “Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York.” MIT Press, 1982.
  3. Ferrell, Jeff. “Crimes of Style: Urban Graffiti and the Politics of Criminality.” Northeastern, 1996.
  4. Ganz, Nicholas. “Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents.” Harry N. Abrams, 2004.
  5. Lewisohn, Cedar. “Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution.” Tate Publishing, 2008.
  6. Macdonald, Nancy. “The Graffiti Subculture: Youth, Masculinity and Identity in London and New York.” Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
  7. Manco, Tristan. “Stencil Graffiti.” Thames & Hudson, 2002.
  8. Phillips, Susan A. “Wallbangin’: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A.” University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  9. Stewart, Jack. “Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway System of New York City, 1970–1978.” Syracuse University Publications, 1989.
  10. Waclawek, Anna. “Graffiti and Street Art.” Thames & Hudson, 2011.
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Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism? Unveiling the Beauty Beyond the Spray Can. (2023, Aug 21). Retrieved from