After the LA MOCA opened its Art in the Streets exhibit in April, an LAPD sergeant in charge the department’s anti-tagging effort told the LA Times that tagging around the museum had risen, thanks, in part to the museum’s exhibition du jour.
“The exhibit kind of glorifies graffiti; It puts taggers on front street,” the sergeant said.
During the exhibit’s run, LAPD cracked down on area taggers, while inside the museum, more than 200,000 visited to see, well, street art.
And companies are wasting no time capitalizing on its popularity. Graffiti-inspired designs have popped up on everything from tweezers, to flat irons to cocktail shakers to Hello Kitty makeup palettes. Meanwhile, artists practicing their work in the streets face misdemeanors and in some cases, felonies if caught doing their art.
The message is: it’s OK to admire the street art aesthetic, as long as it’s something you pay for.
The clear problem? This art form’s heart and soul is in the streets; graffiti, wheat pasting and stenciling are ways for artists to beautify, engage in commentary and start dialogue within their communities (for free no less). The commercialization of an art form while upholding its criminalization feels very un-American.
As street art gains more acceptance in the art world and the real world, maybe its time we–the community members–change the rules of vandalism and make exceptions for artists who are gifting their communities with pro-bono artwork.
What would these new rules look like? How would we determine “art” from blight?
How can we preserve the guts and soul of the art form so artists like Banksy, Barry McGee and others don’t abandon the streets for galleries and auction houses, where a lover of their work has to pay millions for the privilege of seeing their art?