Graffiti, Art or Criminal Act?

In recent years we have seen graffiti transformed from what was once a criminal act to accredited art, so is it time to invest in this form of street art?

With towns littered with dilapidated buildings, unused stores, grime filled alleyways, should we be looking to commissioned graffiti pieces as a way of cleaning up our streets?

Tags = Crime

In my opinion random ‘tags’ are an eyesore and can add to the grubby feel of a rundown street. For those of you unfamiliar with graffiti, you will have seen tags sprawled across walls, electricity boxes, on top of buildings or even along the motorway.

Tags are the graffiti artists signature, like an artist would sign a piece of work, but they began to take on a different form as graffiti culture grew.

Dublin City Council reportedly spends €1 million each year on graffiti removal, even going to the extremes of creating anti-graffiti surfaces. In 2017 an anti-graffiti campaign was released to discourage kids from partaking in the illegal act of tagging calling graffiti a crime and using the hastag #ThinkDontTag to drive home the message.

Although tagging is vandalism, graffiti art, as in commissioned pieces, are a thing of beauty that should be celebrated.

Commissioned Art

We’ve seen graffiti murals erected to express political movements or opinions such as the ‘Repeal the 8th’ mural in Temple bar on the wall of Dublin’s Project Arts Centre, which was originally erected by street artist Maser in 2016 and again in April of this year before being taking down for good.

Image: @HunRealIssues

Or the numerous murals that appeared in support of a Yes vote for the Equal Marriage referendum in 2015. The most famous of these pieces was undoubtedly the work of Irish artist Joe Calin which saw two men embracing and garnered a massive reaction online.


These pieces have also been used to show support of sporting events or teams. In my hometown of Dundalk the Giro d’Italia which saw the whole of town go pink and a stunning mural erected along the empty lot in Francis Street in support of the event. A mural that has since become a regular graffiti location as it now displays a Dundalk FC piece in honour of our very own Lilywhites.

Just this year a mural was unveiled in Dublin to raise awareness for the homeless crisis. Commissioned by Harvey Norman and their charity partner Peter McVerry Trust, the piece, created by artist collective Subset, turned a blank wall into an inviting home and urges people to donate to their campaign which will see 20 homes, supported by the charity, furnished.

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Embracing Graffiti 

It’s time to embrace graffiti culture, eliminating the vandalism element of it. Cover up the tags that can make the aesthetic of an area look even worse and give artists the space to express themselves freely through commissioned pieces.

We have so many empty lots, stores and houses that have been left unkempt, bringing down the visual appeal of areas and their surrounding businesses. Graffiti murals are a way to brighten up, cover up and liven up these run down places. Inject culture, art, emotions and opinions into what would otherwise be yet another forgotten eyesore.

Yes we have seen graffiti murals become more mainstream In recent years, but it’s time now to look at it as a way of upcycling our run down areas, transforming our streets into works of art, raising awareness of societal issues and step away from the idea that all graffiti is a criminal offence.

Taking something and making it beautiful, with a message that can be celebrated should never be seen as a crime, once permission has been granted of course!


Twitter: Aweirdheff
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