The word graffiti means writing or painting on a public surface, sometimes illegally. The most common tools for graffiti artists nowadays are marker pens and spray paints. Graffiti can be either a small “tag”, which is a small writing on a wall or a large mural, spanning over several square meters and anything in between. Techniques vary and artists often create their own style. Graffiti can be done freehand, with stencils, stickers or tiles which are both pre created and glued onto a surface.
History of graffiti can be considered to have begun when the first people created images by painting on rocks and caves. There are plenty of examples from the ancient times of people scribbling on walls and buildings. They would write poems, draw caricatures, vent their frustrations when it comes to love or politics. Ancient graffiti has provided an ample amount of information to archeologists about life over 2000 years ago.
The rise of the modern graffiti art movement can be dedicated to the likes of Lee Quiñones with his graffiti group the Fabulous 5. Lee Quiñones is considered a pioneer and one of the most influential graffiti artists in the genesis of the New York City Subway graffiti movement. He started painting subway carts in 1974 and soon became a legend. He was also one of the first graffiti artists to transfer from subways to canvas based paintings, which with the help of an exhibition of his and a fellow Fabulous 5 member Fab 5 Freddy art at Claudio Bruni’s Galleria Medusa in Rome in 1979, led to street art being introduced to the rest of the world.
Graffiti as an art form began gaining acceptance in New York in the early 1980s when art galleries first exhibited the work of graffiti artists. Graffiti became connected with hip hop culture via artists such as Fab 5 Freddy, who was active on both arenas. This lead to graffiti art spreading all over the world alongside hip-hop music. However, graffiti remained in the fringes of society and many artworks were continuously painted over by authorities. In many countries it is still considered a criminal act, whereas others have designated areas where artists can freely express their art.
The controversy whether graffiti is art or crime continues to this day, however, in the recent years many cities have realized the value of graffiti in terms of it being a part of urban culture and thus, positively affecting the city’s image and appearance. Hence, commissioned street and graffiti art works on the side of buildings, walls and other constructions have soared and even street art festivals have been created around graffiti art.