Street art or vandalism?

Street art, once considered a blight on the urban landscape, is now a major tourist drawcard in many cities. Despite this significant shift in attitude, some still believe that street art equals vandalism. Regular followers of This Melbourne Life or my Instagram feed will know that I love all street art, but understand not everyone shares my appreciation of this art form.

People have been making their creative mark on public spaces for thousands of years. I wonder if prehistoric man (or woman) faced similar judgements to their 21st century peers after carving an image into a cave wall. The location of the art can often sway public perception. A tag, however creative or attractive it might be, is likely to be seen as vandalism if painted on a group of abandoned shops in a seedy neighbourhood. The exact same piece, if located among more asthetically appealing street art in a gentrified neighbourhood, is much more likely to be viewed favourably by the public.

So, who decides what is art and what is vandalism and more importantly what stays up or is removed? For the Melbourne City Council it comes down to permission. If permission is granted, regardless of the nature or perceived appeal of the art, it stays. If there is no permission, the art is removed. A process whereby building owners or tenants can request permission for street artists to paint their building helps the Council to make these judgements.

The Council has also sponsored education and mentoring programs for young street artists, providing public spaces for them to paint, including Union Lane. Now, many of the laneways that criss-cross Melbourne’s central business district are filled with colourful murals, tags, stickers and stencils, attracting many thousands of tourists every year.

Here are some different pieces from around the city of Melbourne and my own neighbourhood. So what do you think – art or vandalism?

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15 comments

  1. Sandra Barton · · Reply

    The street art is gorgeous, done by very talented people, it is the idiots who just tag things that spoil it for others. Great photography again Michelle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sandra!

      Like

  2. There is a very thin line. Bristol considered Banksy as a vandal and removed all his work, now they use his name as a way to advertise the city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I’ve also read that some neighbourhoods resent Banksy as his work has pushed up local house values.

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      1. I could imagine so. Last year there was a lot of fuss when one appeared on the side of a house. He does some good though, he graffitied a community centre and let them sell the piece to raise money.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely art.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I share your appreciation of this art form. Beautiful gallery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cardinal.

      Like

  5. I cannot imagine Melbourne without it. I wish we had more spots like this in Brisbane. Great photos Michelle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks DJ. It certainly adds to the vibrancy of the city.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks amazing. Lots of talented and creative artists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you like it.

      Like

  7. I once happened upon a very funny and confusing sight in Melbourne: the graffiti removal team had been to Degraves St and repainted a wall, covering the many tags but purposely very carefully painting around a pasteup, finishing off their job with a “wet paint” sign. In this instance it was as if the graffiti removal team were defining what was and wasn’t “Art”. To me all graffiti is art, but without the controversy it would lose some of it’s inherent meaning and purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing. I remember hearing another about the MCC cleaners painting over a Banksy. Not sure if it really happened or is just an urban myth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I imagine they kicked themselves afterwards if they did!

        Liked by 1 person

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