From ArticleWorld

Graffiti refers to the art of marking private and public surfaces with words or drawings. However, it becomes a crime commonly known as vandalism, when the markings are done without the consent of the property owner.



The art of inscribing drawings, carvings or words in any surface had its beginnings from the ancient civilization. This is evident from the etchings and drawings found in caves inhabited by ancient man. Graffiti in the form of inscriptions were found in ancient paintings, walls, sepulchers and catacombs. Nowhere is graffiti more pronounced than in Ancient Rome and Egypt.

Today, and with the advent of spray paints, it has evolved into a modern-day crime known as vandalism. Vandalism is the crime of maliciously creating markings on private and public walls without the consent of the owner. Graffiti was used by gang members to announce and mark their presence in a certain area. Legal graffiti, also known as frescoes and murals, can however be seen in public places like school walls, subways, and even in airplanes.

In the modern world, graffiti was used as a medium of self expression. Thus, modern graffiti signified the signs of the times. Take for example the “Kilroy was here” graffiti during the World War II of the 20th century. This was followed by the airplane graffiti which resulted from new developments in aviation.


There are various kinds of graffiti depending on the medium used and the graffiti style. Some of the graffiti styles are:

  • bombing
  • computer-generated graffiti
  • bathroom graffiti
  • tree graffiti
  • airplane graffiti
  • political graffiti
  • subway or freight-train graffiti

Gang graffiti vs. graffiti art

The proliferation of illegal graffiti or graffiti made by gang members has caused a furor among those who do graffiti art. The real or legal graffiti artists have sought to distance themselves from gang graffiti. The main difference between the two lies in the purpose of their graffiti. Graffiti artists do it for self-expression while gang members do it to mark their territory. The graffiti made by real artists are more elaborate while those done by gang members are crude. However, there are art researchers who believe that illegal graffiti has evolved into a public art and shows the public’s political sentiments. Many cities are in fact encouraging graffiti by designating public walls for graffiti. While others believe this is an effective method of discouraging vandalism, there are those who believe otherwise.

Legal action against graffiti

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, was among those who took an aggressive stand against vandalism by establishing the Anti Graffiti Task Force. This paved the way to a ban against selling aerosol spray paints to those who are below 18 years old. As of January 1, 2006, persons below 21 years of age are no longer allowed by law to possess spray paints and/or permanent markers. Another mayor, this time Richard M. Daley of Chicago, sought to rid Chicago’s streets of graffiti through Graffiti Blasters, a bureau that offers free cleaning of graffiti around the city. As a response to the common vandalism problems of the city, Philadelphia officials created the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, which in turn resulted to the Mural Arts Program. The Program identified graffiti areas and replaced them with government-commissioned and protected murals. Nowhere is graffiti severely punished than in Singapore, which made headlines in 1993 when it arrested, imprisoned and caned Michael P. Fay, a student of the Singapore American School. Fay, who was found guilty of violating Singapore’s Vandalism Act, was fined 3,500 Singaporean dollars or roughly US$2,233.