Graffiti: vandalism or a legitimate art form?

When former prime minister David Cameron gifted Barack Obama a canvas by the then largely-unknown street artist Ben Eine in 2010,  it stoked the fire for discussion surrounding what constitutes fine art. With around 20 arrests and five convictions for criminal damage under his belt, the English graffitist was perhaps not a typical poster boy for contemporary art, but his acceptance by the U.S. president illustrated the genre's ever-shifting boundaries. 

Under British law, graffiti is still considered an act of vandalism and in line with the Criminal Damage Act of 1971, anyone caught in the act of 'destroying or damaging property' will be arrested and face a fine or imprisonment. But with artists like Banksy achieving international fame and fetching sums of up to $1.87 million at auction, is it time for graffiti to be recognised as a valuable genre? 

Mei Xiang

Domingo Zapata

Xin Xin

Domingo Zapata

Ain't No Stray

Hamish Blakely

Helping the environment

It's reported that the UK government spends £300 million every year cleaning graffiti off public buildings, but in their efforts to eradicate, they could potentially be missing out on the positive effects it can have on communities. 

A report by the Heritage Lottery Fund stated that Bristol Museum's 2009 Bansky exhibition accounted for 50,000 bed spaces in hotels and guest houses, while graffiti-hunting has become a tourist attraction in areas like East London and New York's Lower East Side. 

In fact, a Ph.D student at the University of Chicago recently argued that the genre is "contributing to gentrification" and "the appeal of certain neighbourhoods." 


How are our artists inspired by graffiti?

From Temper to John D Wilson and Emma Grzonkowski, many of our artists have been inspired by street art and the hip hop genre. 

In November 2017, Emma was selected to depict the headline acts for Spotify's first-ever live music event, 'Who We Be'. The Chester-based painter captured urban artists like Bugzy Malone, Dizzee Rascal and Cardi B for the colourful piece - which then took pride of place at Spotify HQ. 

For her latest collection, Eden, Emma revisited the hip hop genre for a bolder energy and colour palette.

"Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better-looking place."


From the blog

A sparkling season with the Bisaillon Brothers


The New York pop art duo bring champagne style to their Pop Collection of iconic people and brands with a group of four new champagne-themed limited edition works.

The Art of Chaos | Illuminati Neon


A homage to the punk rock genre, this release includes a selection of large-scale, mixed media artworks and two unapologetically rock 'n' roll limited edition prints with a graphic that reportedly had the approval of the late Queen herself!

Dan Lane's powerful new romantic sculpture


Artist Dan Lane brings an extraordinary new work for those who celebrate love in all its shades. ‘Look At Me, Tell Me You Love Me’ features a pair of skulls in the centre of a heart, surrounded by golden butterflies, all atop a marble base.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter.

We'll be sending you an email with a verification link, just click it and you're good to go!

Join our mailing list for exclusive discounts, the latest art news, artist updates and more.

Your email is safe with us. For more information, see our privacy policy.

© Copyright Washington Green Retail Limited trading as Castle Fine Art. First published 2012, last updated 2024. Washington Green Retail Limited acts as a credit broker and offers credit products from Secure Trust Bank PLC trading as V12 Retail Finance.

Washington Green Retail Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our registration number is 726395. Credit provided subject to age and status. Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies V12 Finance