Is graffiti art? Or vandalism? – Kelly Wall

Is graffiti art? Or vandalism? – Kelly Wall

Spray-painted subway cars, tagged bridges, mural-covered walls. Graffiti pops up boldly
throughout our cities. It can make statements about identity,
art, empowerment, and politics, while simultaneously being associated
with destruction. And, it turns out, it’s nothing new. Graffiti, or the act of writing
or scribbling on public property, has been around for thousands of years. And across that span of time, it’s raised the same questions
we debate now: Is it art? Is it vandalism? In the 1st century BCE, Romans regularly
inscribed messages on public walls, while oceans away, Mayans were prolifically scratching
drawings onto their surfaces. And it wasn’t always a subversive act. In Pompeii, ordinary citizens regularly
marked public walls with magic spells, prose about unrequited love, political campaign slogans, and even messages to champion
their favorite gladiators. Some, including the Greek
philosopher Plutarch, pushed back, deeming graffiti ridiculous and pointless. But it wasn’t until the 5th century that the roots of the modern concept
of vandalism were planted. At that time, a barbaric tribe
known as the Vandals swept through Rome, pillaging and destroying the city. But it wasn’t until centuries later that
the term vandalism was actually coined in an outcry against the defacing of art
during the French Revolution. And as graffiti became
increasingly associated with deliberate rebellion
and provocativeness, it took on its vandalist label. That’s part of the reason why, today,
many graffiti artists stay underground. Some assume alternate identities
to avoid retribution, while others do so to establish
comradery and make claim to territory. Beginning with the tags of the 1960s, a novel overlap of celebrity and anonymity hit the streets of New York City
and Philadelphia. Taggers used coded labels to trace
their movements around cities while often alluding to their origins. And the very illegality of graffiti-making
that forced it into the shadows also added to its intrigue
and growing base of followers. The question of space and ownership
is central to graffiti’s history. Its contemporary evolution has gone
hand in hand with counterculture scenes. While these movements raised their
anti-establishment voices, graffiti artists likewise challenged
established boundaries of public property. They reclaimed subway cars, billboards, and even once went so far as to paint
an elephant in the city zoo. Political movements, too, have used wall writing
to visually spread their messages. During World War II, both the Nazi Party
and resistance groups covered walls with propaganda. And the Berlin Wall’s one-sided graffiti can be seen as a striking symbol
of repression versus relatively
unrestricted public access. As the counterculture movements associated with graffiti
become mainstream, does graffiti, too, become accepted? Since the creation of so-called
graffiti unions in the 1970s and the admission of select graffiti
artists into art galleries a decade later, graffiti has straddled the line between
being outside and inside the mainstream. And the appropriation of graffiti styles
by marketers and typographers has made this definition
even more unclear. The once unlikely partnerships
of graffiti artists with traditional museums and brands, have brought these artists
out of the underground and into the spotlight. Although graffiti
is linked to destruction, it’s also a medium of unrestricted
artistic expression. Today, the debate about the boundary between defacing
and beautifying continues. Meanwhile, graffiti artists challenge
common consensus about the value of art and the degree to which any space
can be owned. Whether spraying, scrawling,
or scratching, graffiti brings these questions
of ownership, art, and acceptability to the surface.

Dereck Turner

100 thoughts on “Is graffiti art? Or vandalism? – Kelly Wall

  1. Aliette Dupas says:

    The painting that you represented when you talked about french revolution by Delacroix is a representation of the "trois glorieuses" not of the french revolution but il's a typical american mistake so i'll forgive ya good video:)

  2. Zainab Tahir says:

    Yo! Stop Geoffrey!!!!!!😤

  3. Zainab Tahir says:

    Sorry! Graffiti

  4. RJ M says:

    Graffiti; Almost always vandalism, sometimes art.

  5. Brendan says:

    The first form a graffiti was in 27 Ad when I young man named brian who wrote "romanes eunt Sonia" as a form of rebellion against then Roman rule at the time. this original piece graffiti or what it became known as at the time, graffitus, is what created such a huge art form in your modern civilisation. thanks Brian.

  6. Here's Hot Rod says:

    Well if the person has permission then it's not a problem, but if the person doesn't have permission then it's problem.

  7. Derek Witthar says:

    I love TED-Ed graphics, but this one actually hurt my eyes some how. I hope they don't do anymore in this style

  8. Hype Gamer says:

    We did a persuasive text about this!

  9. Joy S says:

    To be honest alot of graffiti is very pretty and they truly are wonderful artists

  10. BulletBill110 says:

    That elephant was probably like dafaq

  11. Dietrich von Bern says:

    Graffiti is Ridiculous and pointless

  12. ArmouredLemming says:

    Kilroy was here.   — uu-[ni jn]'-uu–

  13. cat lover says:

    i like graffiti

  14. Minh Trí says:

    The background was not good. It made my eyes tired.
    But the content was great!

  15. henriandco says:

    Name of the artist at 3:20 ? I know it I just can't remember and it's bothering me big time.

  16. Aminat Abiola says:

    I absolutely love this, more so because I watched the Get Down on Netflix. Books is so romantic😍😍

  17. Kostas Kjellsons says:

    Well at least me, as on graffiti, i only graffiti on public property

  18. Dan S says:

    Forgot the Celtic cave drawings

  19. Dan S says:

    More than just art.

  20. Trollol Police says:

    Simple as this scribble on my property and you'll have a 12 gauge OO buckshot up your ass

  21. Weedi says:

    Did you know that Taki 183 wasn't the first guy who maded tags, he just started to make tags around the city, not just in neighbourhood (sorry my bad english)

  22. SKATE CHESSE! says:

    Graffiti isn't just done by gangs to mark their neighborhoods anyone can become a tagger

  23. MrAntieMatter says:

    It's interesting to watch this without audio.

  24. froggo says:

    my crush does graffiti lol i'm torturing myself

  25. Kaitlyn Seo says:

    Graffiti is actually a style of art. Go ahead and search up the definition of art. Most graffiti is vandalism though. I guess I would settle for Art in the wrong place, and not have Graffiti as a style though.

  26. Bob Jones says:


  27. Vitabrick Snailslime says:

    Well if it's clever enough to make me like it, then it's art. Otherwise I'd like to empty their fucking spray cans into their eyes, ears and mouth before breaking several bones.

  28. Blaineworld says:

    I'd say graffiti is both—even that yellow drawing of a penis that I saw under a bridge earlier today. You VANDALIZING TROLLS! STOP DRAWING PENISES!!!

  29. Dylan Raskay says:


  30. Jack Dajackichun says:

    BCE is a direct anti-christian statement. Anyone with any understanding at all can see it.

  31. HULL GRAFFITI says:

    As a profferssional graffiti artist I gotta say this is a pretty cool quick vid…pretty spot on.

  32. Yung Plum Stick - Hazhien Edits says:

    The Obey thing tho also we're did Obey and Supreme memes come from

  33. Blue Moon says:

    Well, first off, you got to have permission, secondly, you must put some effort into it.

  34. Isaac Bakan says:

    I honestly feel like the should have more public art opportunities and public walls for garaffiti. A lot of kids graffiti illegal cause they naturaly want to do something like they should but can't find and legal oppurtunities. And honestly graffiti is better than thongs like drugs and gangbanging. People complain about deliquentry youths, but honestly, we are often just looking for something to do and the legal stuff is too exclusive or expensive.

  35. Wurmo says:

    I found out a way to stop graffiti in my teens. My friends mom painted the kitchen and there was half a bucket of paint left that me and my friends tagged with. I painted some giant nazi swastikas for fun on some old mexican graffiti that had been there for years.
    2 weeks laters, all the graffiti was painted over by the city.
    Paint swastikas all over and the graffiti will be removed sooner rather than later.

  36. Amir Perreg says:

    Is it vandalism to print an image off the internet and then stick it on the front window display on a shop like HMV or a similar shop, obscuring one of their adverts?

  37. Evomre says:

    Clearly vandalism.

  38. Justin X. says:


  39. poopleman krumpet says:

    Kelly W Å Ĺ Ł

  40. AMG Wagon says:

    Vandalism. End of that. It's for hudlums who are on drugs.

  41. theHAHA111 says:

    Graffiti is art. Graffiti is vandalism too. That is what makes it graffiti. If you aint about to risk everything getting caught or even worsed snitched on then pick another medium. If you practice graffiti long enough your letters will look proper and other writers will respect you.

  42. zonski vds.lsb2m says:

    This lady clearly has no knowledge what so ever on graffiti art, and another thing I wanna mention is What u call "scribbling" is actually us graffiti writers tag or name, and why we do it, is cuz we're expressing ourselves and people like u clearly can't see that.

  43. Renei Rose says:

    Im really tired of this "Vandalism or art" argument. It's obviously both. Art is an expression and Vandalism is the destruction or alteration of something the vandal doesn't own..IT'S BOTH

  44. Noe Berengena says:

    To ascribe a noble cause to all unwelcome defacement of someone else's property is a gargantuan mistake. There is nothing noble or artistic about walls in historic cultural centers being vandalized.

  45. RMS_graffiti says:

    Hahahaha the tumbnail keth haring isnt graffiti hé is street art

  46. Devastxte says:


  47. Michele Basso says:

    Graffiti is not vandalism graffiti is art

  48. Paul and Narelle says:

    Street Art is a way of life. Great video thanks to all involved. Check out some great Brisbane Street Art sometime soon.

  49. Alley-Gator says:

    Its art

  50. Dair McCormick says:

    Graffiti is graffiti end of

  51. Realms Of Darkness says:

    If we're talking modern graffiti culture, yes, it is vandalism first and foremost. And that is what makes it amazing. When one does graffiti they are vandalizing with art. Its illegal and unathorized art.

  52. Darrell Kapusta says:

    this is cool

  53. flower says:

    crime is art

  54. ettekamba6969 says:

    They were for expose of secret without an identity

  55. websterbodybuilder says:

    Graffiti identifies the poor neighborhoods …….the very wealthy do not put graffiti on their homes

  56. Jonh Snow says:

    IT is ART

  57. EViLER0 3742 says:


  58. EViLER0 3742 says:


  59. EViLER0 3742 says:


  60. EViLER0 3742 says:


  61. EViLER0 3742 says:


  62. EViLER0 3742 says:


  63. EViLER0 3742 says:


  64. Jay Cee says:

    its to claim turf?

  65. Herr Bert says:

    Title: itdepends

  66. Living Walks says:

    I have just started filming some of the best street art walks in Europe on our youtube channel – there's no ad's or agenda – like this TED talk, just an appreciation. So thanks I really enjoyed the video and have subscribed.

  67. thomas rekkal says:

    c'est une video que j'ai vue en anglais et je la trouve nul (LIKE)

  68. Le Succ says:

    people don't understand why we graffiti

  69. Denxytube says:


  70. DrMadz says:

    It is art And vandalism

  71. destro lock999 says:

    This is Patrick.

  72. Timothy Delaval says:

    grafiti is art its were you put it that makes it vandalism

  73. truthbetold says:

    It's only vandalism if it's not done by the group of people who work for the establishment called Banksey. But if you're poor then you're committing an illegal act.

  74. jake jakelia says:

    graffiti is vandalism.

  75. mecho derle eldetu der says:


  76. Ajoni Webb says:

    it's funny since they don't know what there talking about that's literally the wiki page of graffiti not from there actual interest it's not ownership or destruction some people don't call it art it's based on the person the identity

  77. ItsNoahScott says:

    It is art because graffiti doesn’t hurt people. Unless you’re just soft person.


    As SEEN godfather of Graffiti said, graffiti writing has nothing to do with hip hop, same is my thinking cause in Greece i started graffiti writing back at 1984 when hip hop did not exist in my country!

  79. Christopher Bergthold says:

    An anonymous person, vadalizing private property, to force others into proximity with their opinion that they are not intelligent enough to disceminat legally. It could be a strong possibility that what a graffiti writer writes is in all likelihood useless, why else would a person have to resort to such a method.

  80. Tunanator125 69 says:

    Kelly wall 🤣

  81. a1lily. le says:

    Graffiti is diffrent from vandalism both is freedom of expression one is out of spread of love and emotions one is just hate

  82. Nelson Herrmann says:

    Graffiti and street art are not at all the same, sure they both use paint and do it on walls and stuff, but thats like saying a chef is the same as a knife killer, they both use knives right so they are the same thing.

  83. CriSis SpyroJabber says:

    This is mostly street art

  84. amy Leo99 says:

    Absolute vandalism!

  85. MUNCH says:

    these visuals are fantastic

  86. Gabriel ZapiZapi says:

    Muito bom,gostei bastante tô nem zoando

  87. Franz Wurmdobler says:

    is music noise? or disturbance? is architecture art ? or optical pollution? are humans good? or bad?

  88. Jutay Litawulo says:

    It depends what they draw or how they draw it for me.

  89. BigDaddyBlueFish says:


  90. TheTrainExpert says:

    Thank you Ted ed

  91. Tom tag says:

    Why not letting someone from our culture talk about it…👎

  92. Straight Dingus Boy says:

    If it’s good it art
    If it’s bad it’s vandalism

  93. LuckyBroadcast says:

    Great video. I wish your team the best.

  94. Johnathan johnathonson says:

    Was expecting Kelly Wall to be mega mad about graffiti. All those walls painted, she doesn’t want her to be as well or something idk.

  95. Peter Hallen says:

    It's art

  96. Dripping Audio says:

    This lady dont know what she's talking about

  97. nesp says:

    Just, don't talk about street art when you do a video about graffiti

  98. Tamara Bitter says:

    I like graffiti art its beautiful😍👍 i like art like that im a artist who likes art and i enjoy art but my problem is im going to ask myself this question if i like art like that does that me im a gangster nooooooooooooooooooo i just like the art for fun and like doing it but i only do my art on paper that's for me just because i like it doesn't make me nothing yes i can say theres people that don't understand when it comes to this because your just a normal regular person who loves art

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