Where graffiti intersects with art

Yesterday I noted with dismay that it had taken fewer than 12 hours for my pal Chank’s newest mural to be defaced by taggers.

Tagging is pathetic. The ultimate form of mindless self-involvement, it consists simply of painting one’s name or initials ad nauseam on the sides of trains and buildings. Tagging litters our urban landscapes with the vapid scrawls of a six-year-old.

But then there’s a different kind of graffiti …

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching Exit Through the Gift Shop, the quirky documentary about a man who can’t stop filming everything he sees—and the urban artists who are equally compelled to express themselves on empty walls and billboards.

I had several “I know that guy!” moments during the film. I’ve seen Shepard Fairey’s “Obey” work in at least a couple of cities.

… but I didn’t know that he was the mind behind the now-iconic Obama posters.

I also immediately recognized the work of Invader. I’ve seen his mosaics first-hand all over Paris.

But the introduction to Banksy’s work was a revelation. His art is brilliant—and it packs a powerful political punch.

By the end of the film, I found myself sympathizing with the urban artists who risk arrest and imprisonment to make the rest of us stop, look, laugh and think.

What do YOU think? Is there a place where graffiti intersects with art? Take a peek at some of the street art that has most caught my eye, and drop me a note.

Still with me?! I commend your perseverance! To thank you, I’ve saved the best for last.

I was a bit irate when the man in the photo below walked into the frame just as I was depressing the shutter button. But when I got home I realized I’d captured a “happy accident:” I just love the way the umbrella seems to be resting against the man’s shoulder, and how the little bunny looks like it’s catching a ride on his coattails.

So … what do you think? Does some graffiti qualify as art?


  1. J’adore la dernière photo… 🙂

    Invader reste mon street-artist favori, j’apprécie énormément ce qu’il fait…

    Bonne journée.

    MO and is M3 from Paris. 😉 🙂

    • Bonjour, Mo ! Moi aussi, la dernière photo est ma favorite. Il y des fois quand se déroule par hazard. Je ne sais pas si tu as vu ce film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, mais si non je peux te l’apporter en Novembre. Je pense que l’espirit du film te plaira beacoup … s’agit totalement à propos de suivre la passion pour son art, son métier, quoi …

      Je te souhaite une belle journée à Paris avec ton M3. Salut, mon pote ! 🙂

  2. What is art? That’s the question haunting anyone who writes, or paints, or photographs, or composes, or choreographs. And for me, it is the question at the heart of Exit through the Gift Shop because wherever there is doubt there are charlatans and tricksters trying to take advantage of the uncertainty to promote for profit what passes for art. I loved the film. And I thought it was a very important film in that it skillfully separated art from publicity: “art for the sake of art” as opposed to “art for the sake of fame and fortune”.
    I don’t think I have any idea what “art” is. I see work that has praise heaped upon it and I wonder why; and then, I see work that is ignored and again, wonder why. Art is ephemeral. There is no scale by which it can be measured. But if a piece of grafitti on a wall somewhere makes you laugh or brings tears to your eyes or provokes any other emotion in you, then that is as near as I can get to a definition of art.
    BTW: I was delighted to see that you had sneaked a picture of the Rue du Chat qui Peche into your grafitti in Paris series. 🙂

    • I love — and happen to share — your definition of art. Unfortunately, if I go by this definition, 98% of the stuff in the Pompidou museum is *not* art. And how unexpectedly wonderful that you saw and enjoyed this film. It was a bit of a sleeper, so I didn’t think many folks had seen it.

      As always … thanks for your insightful and thought-provoking comments!

  3. Love this series of pics, esp. last one and the cat under the umbrella and, oh, lots more in fact. Banksy is always thought-provoking. I was in the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh with my sons today, seeing abstract art through the eyes of a 9 and a 5 year old – no preconceptions, just an instinctive response to line and colour – it was fascinating. And I got to enthuse about Howard Hodgkin to them (and to try to explain to my mother why I think he’s wonderful – she thinks all this ‘modern stuff’ is rubbish!). Not v relevant, just another take on ‘what is art’. Sorry not v coherent either – off to bed after 3 exhausting days in the great metropolis of Scotland! 🙂

    • How wonderful to experience abstract art through your sons’ eyes! And how equally wonderful that you’re able to *appreciate* the experience … I think it would be lost on most people. But perhaps when you get settled in again yo can explain Howard Hodgkin to me as well. I’m with your mum, unfortunately: I must have been absent the days they were handing out the appreciation for modern art. Hope you’re able to get some good rest tonight — and that tomorrow is full of wonderful new adventures. Cheerio!

  4. I love the Invader! How very cool!

    I’d definitely say that some graffiti qualifies as art. I’m just not a fan of the ugly tagging that seems to often plague the streets (But then again, who is?).

    We have some great street art in our city of Melbourne. If you’re interested, this site has a great collection of photos:http://tinyurl.com/3ph3omj

    Great post!

    • I’m with you, Katy: Invader is among my favorite street artists *ever.* It’s such a fun, whimsical concept.

      And thanks very much for the link to the site about Melbourne. I’m off to take a look! 🙂

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