Is Graffiti Art?

Alex Ruchhoeft, Art Specialist

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There is a wide appreciation for street art. When walking through Chicago one can see the breathtaking murals and beautiful displays of artistic talent. It’s very easy to forget that such art is a crime.

Yes, graffiti artists are considered felons. “While vandalism may be considered “art” by some, it is nonetheless a crime against property that is punishable by jail time, monetary fines, or both,” FindLaw states clearly and succinctly. The law is set, and so one must obey.

But that’s not what art is about.  

Take Banksy for example. This street artist is being sought out world wide. His art has been found in London, Louisiana, and in the Middle East. He has become something of a household name, as art enthusiasts buy the property his art is located and whole communities protest their removal. The law as met such pushback for the destruction of such work that they simply leave the works, as the community wishes.

Wouldn’t you consider that art?


Or perhaps Shedpard Fairey. He’s best known for his “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama. He has artwork in the Smithsonian. Yet anything he has on the street would be considered graffiti. Would you consider it art?

Art has been known for trying to break through social standards and bring change. The avant-garde movement is the most prominent evidence of that. Before the movement, art was largely based on religion, and it was meant to look just like a picture.

However, after the invention of the camera, that was pointless. So many artists went out and they broke the standard rules of art. Artists like Monet and Bores changed the way we think of art, paving the way for other artists like Picasso and Van Gogh.

So what makes these artists different?

The medium on which they paint?

The laws they break for change?

But no one says it better than Banksy- “Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”