Graffiti has only been recognised as an art form since the 1990s. With its roots in the works of spray paint artists such Blek le Rat, who developed his form of stencil graffiti in the 80s in France, graffiti art was once synonymous with vandalism and economic depression. However, since the 90s, some graffiti artists have gained critical respect from the art world at large, and have even sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. British graffiti artist Banksy is arguably the most famous graffiti artist, and his work has been officially sanctioned and is now protected by Bristol council (though only following public demand – indeed, Banksy’s art book, Wall and Peace, contains the following condemnation from Bristol council “There’s no way you’re getting a quote from us”). A homeowner in Easton, Bristol, threw paint over one of Banksy’s works after the sale of his property was described as “an original Banksy with a house thrown in” in protest. Clearly, though recognised as a valid art form by many, graffiti is still seen as a real problem to homeowners and businesses whose walls are defaced.
The unfortunate fact is that 99.9% of graffiti doesn’t feature the socially acerbic wit of Banksy, the late King Robbo, or any of the genuinely gifted graffiti artists, but remains the work of vandals who, if they ever do develop artistic talent, certainly haven’t got it yet. Graffiti does still send a message of criminality, disorder, and social deprivation.
That graffiti art is representative of youth culture is undeniable. Some businesses, particularly those selling products or marketing services to young people, can benefit from utilising graffiti art as a part of their branding – but this is always best achieved by talented local artists who deservedly charge a fee for their work.
If your company or organisation does choose to use graffiti art in your branding, let it be done by genuine artists whose talents will make your premises look relevant and attractive – while hiring professional graffiti removal to remove the efforts of vandals who either have no talent, or actively want to degrade your property.
Do check first, however, that you’re not removing a genuine Banksy. They’re worth thousands.