Vandalism is illegal, right? That’s common knowledge, I’m sure. But what about when you take something ordinary and make art out of it? How can society dictate what’s art and what’s vandalism?
Street Art began as quite possibly the only truly subversive art form in recent years. I don’t mean that lightly, as the word subversive is tossed around to describe artists from Jeff Koons (you can read my opinion of him here) to Lady Gaga, but very few artists actually deserve the adjective. However, street art- whether it’s “good” art or not, is still illegal on it’s home turf.
Beginning simply as artists tagging public property, the stencils slowly grew more elaborate and the messages in the work became more overtly anti-establishment. Despite how common graffiti has been, it didn’t break into the art scene officially until Banksy’s 2006 solo show in Los Angeles, Barely Legal, which had people lining up outside the doors- including art collectors.
Since then, street art has made a marked move into the contemporary art scene, taking many of the large names out of the streets and plopping them in galleries. Art collectors have since started snapping up works from Shepherd Fairey and Mobstr- and of course Banksy.
Since street art’s recent popularity in galleries, the question still remains- does it really belong there? Does the work being in the gallery (legally) to be viewed by a specific ‘art crowd’ as opposed to being in the street (generally illegally) and viewed by everyone who passes by? Personally, I believe it does detract from the statement of the work, but if allows the artists to make a living doing what they feel they’ve been called to do, does that make it worth it?