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Art or Anarchy?

Is graffiti a legitimate form of art?

It is according to The Urban Art Fair which has included a whole street of the stuff in this month’s fair (more on this on page 16). But others are not convinced, arguing that it’s more akin to vandalism. How can a spray-painted scrawl on the side of a tube carriage or on a bridge be called art, they suggest?

As with many such arguments, context is key. If that tube carriage happens to be in Brixton Square and the scrawl is in fact a mural created using spray paints, then would that not qualify it as art - it’s been commissioned, planned and paid for, after all?

When it comes to spray painting, it seems that the line between art and vandalism is but a smudge. If you woke up and found a spray-painted mural on the wall of your house, it would be the work of vandals not artists, surely? But what if it as a Banksy? Your house would have appreciated in value overnight (unless like Poundland you should be unfortunate enough to have your wall stolen), because of this vandalism. Put like this, do we feel happy that Banksy’s work is defnitely art? It certainly sells like art, with galleries around the globe fighting to feature a genuine article. Evidently the artistic establishment has accepted him as one of their own. Yet, ironically, if you ask his fellow graffiti artists about his work, his name will as often as not be met with a snort of derision. Banksy uses stencils, they cry, that’s not art, that’s primary school painting by numbers!

What can’t be argued is that master Banksy has changed our perception of spray painting and brought it into the mainstream. As to whether or not it’s art... well, why not head down to the Urban Art Fair and decide for yourself. I guarantee you won’t be the only one!

Have a fantastic July.

Jon Watt is editor of the Clapham & Battersea and Fulham editions of Time & Leisure Magazine.