Sanctioning Art (or a Taming of the Shrew): The Graffiti to Gallery [dis]Continuum
International Conference on the Arts in Society Lisbon, Portugal 2019
Abstract: Since making their first cave wall paintings, our ancestors have expressed personal, societal, and political agendas with graffiti. Archeologists have uncovered examples from ancient cultures around the world. In the 1960s, a universal explosion of graffiti ignited within the hip-hop counter-culture in New York. It spread rapidly across the United States, Europe, and Asia. To this day public attitudes and legal sanctions towards graffiti vary dramatically from country to country, even city to city. Punishments for illicitly painting graffiti on vehicles and buildings range from fines and imprisonment to caning. Harsh punishments still prevail in some repressive regimes. However, over the past two decades attitudes towards graffiti and street murals have arisen that embrace, or at least acknowledge street artworks as meaningful and relevant forms of expression. Some community art programs provide opportunities for street artists with no gang affiliations to express themselves constructively. Cities from Moscow, to New York, Los Angeles, and Singapore provide sanctioned walls for graffiti artists and muralists to create and display work temporarily. To the chagrin of many street artists, galleries have mounted exhibits of transplanted street art. Diverse museums dedicated to graffiti have opened in cities scattered around the world, including Berlin, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and New York. This paper places special emphasis on sanctioned and unsanctioned graffiti and public murals documented by the author, in countries including (from East to West) Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and the United States. An ultimate question remains: if it’s institutionalized, is it graffiti?
Keywords: Graffiti. Public Arts, Art Festivals, Art Museums, Arts Policy Knowledge Focus: Research Presentation Theme: Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts