Modern art or vandalism? Whatever you think about street art, you'll learn more by reading this article.


A Long History

Painting and writing on walls is nothing new. In prehistoric times, people in Africa and Europe painted pictures of animals and people in caves. Graffiti has been found at ancient sites in Greece, Italy, Syria and Iraq. In the Roman town of Pompeii in Italy, archaeologists found a lot of graffiti written in Latin, including political and romantic messages, and even some magic spells!

Modern Times

In the 1970s, young people in New York used pens to write their names, or 'tags', on walls around the city. One of the first 'taggers' was Demetrius, a teenager from a Greek family. Demetrius's tag was TAKI 183. TAKI was his nickname and 183 was the number of the street where he lived – 183rd Street. At first, he wrote his tag on walls in his neighbourhood. Then he started writing it in subway stations on the way to school. When the subway train stopped at a station, he jumped off, wrote his 'tag' on the wall and then jumped back on the train before the doors closed. Other teenagers saw Demetrius's tag and started writing their own tags on walls, buses and subway trains all over New York: Barbara 62, Joe 182 ...

Then, some teenagers stopped using pens and started using aerosol paints. Their tags were bigger and more colourful. Aerosol paint graffiti became very popular in the 1970s and 1980s and appeared on trains, buses and walls around the world. In the 1990s and 2000s, a lot of graffiti artists started to make pictures too. Some artists were interested in politics and tried to make people think about social problems and discrimination with their pictures. Other artists wanted to make cities more beautiful. In South America, street artists started painting in poor areas. They brought colour and beauty to grey, city walls.

Art or Vandalism?

Is graffiti art or vandalism? In many countries, it is a crime to paint on walls and street artists can have problems with the police. In other countries, street art is permitted in certain places. For example, in Taiwan, there are 'graffiti zones' where artists are free to paint and write on walls. In São Paulo in Brazil, the city council allows some graffiti artists to paint on the city's subway trains.

Nowadays, street art is more popular with the public. In some cities, there are street art festivals. In Bristol in the UK, there is a street art festival in August every year. Artists paint all the buildings in a street. Lots of people come to watch the artists and take photos. Street art can be seen in galleries too. There have been exhibitions of street art in galleries in Paris, London and Los Angeles.

Who are the Artists?

Some street artists have become famous. Here are three stars of the street art world:

  • Os Gêmeos are identical twin brothers from São Paulo. They paint huge, colourful pictures of people on buildings. In 2007, they painted a castle in Scotland.
  • Blek le Rat is from France. He started off painting rats on the walls of Paris. Nowadays, he paints pictures of homeless people in big cities. He wants city residents to look at his pictures and think about the homeless.
  • Faith47 is from Cape Town in South Africa. She paints big, colourful pictures of people and animals. She likes painting in different locations and you can find her pictures on pavements, postboxes, buses, cars and, of course, on walls!

Street Art and the Global Village

Most street artists are young people who paint in their home city or neighbourhood. Many of them use the internet to communicate and share photos of their pictures with other street artists around the world. Some street artists have become famous and their pictures can be seen in galleries or on city walls around the world. Although we don’t know what will happen to street art in the future, we can be sure that it is here to stay!

Robin Newton

Total votes: 707
Language level: 


Is there a lot of graffiti on the streets where you live? Do you like it or hate it?


poppymoore's picture
poppymoore 29 March, 2017 - 19:26

Decent graffiti is always welcome. They not only make old parts of the city look beautiful but also inspire young artists.

13 users have voted.
panda47's picture
panda47 30 May, 2016 - 17:57

I really love graffiti and street art, they just look amazing and they make the city more colourful and more interesting.
I also think that good graffitis aren´t vandalism, because they are a big part of modern art. The best street arts are in 3d, because you need to be very talented and it is much work to make 3d street arts look amazing and realistic. Graffiti artists should get more fame, because without graffitis the cities
wouldn´t look that cool. So big applause to all graffiti artists.

71 users have voted.
he19's picture
he19 3 April, 2016 - 05:21

I think street Art on the one hand ,it is good for the city, on the other hand it is bad for city.
First,graffiti can make cities beautiful and became our city more and more prosperous.
Second,graffiti can make our city more lively and make people feel happy and excited.Of course,Art street can let more people visit our city to see graffiti.
All in all,Art street is a very interesting thing,but graffiti make our city so busy and I think I will try it by chance in the furture!

69 users have voted.
yulia_rudnitskaya's picture
yulia_rudnitskaya 28 March, 2016 - 14:12

In my opinion graffiti is an original art. Graffiti artists have own thought which they want to show. It is absolutely fantastic: imaginative and beautifully done. Graffiti gives colour to our grey life. But some people says it is a crime and crime and vandalism. Some countries don't allow to draw graffiti.

62 users have voted.
dubiduba's picture
dubiduba 2 April, 2016 - 14:32

I think graffiti is a good thing.Because in our country,we have a lot of gray pray places.Graffiti can make these gray places more beautiful.Some teenagers like painting,and it can help them show good ideas about graffiti.Graffiti can help our country to have more tourists,too.graffiti also is an exercise,And graffiti can make our city more nice.So,I think graffiti is a good thing,I love graffiti.

73 users have voted.
DarkKaiser's picture
DarkKaiser 28 March, 2016 - 09:41

In my city,setreet art is very popular,and I really think it's good.When I saw a street art,I felt so happy.It can let people active and excited. It can also let the city beautiful.
A home work of English First Frountrunner book 5

64 users have voted.
CowsEatGrass's picture
CowsEatGrass 17 July, 2015 - 09:21

To me,the thing makes graffiti become an art or vandalism depends on where they were drawn. In some entertainment places like amusement parks,some outside studios or even inside a coffe shop,graffiti is a good choice to make a unique and distinctive background for people to enjoy and take photos maybe,that would be a perfect art contribution! But there are also some limits.In my opinion,graffiti should not be drawn in a neighborhood or someone's wall's house,it could be really annoying except it was agreed and encouraged by the residents. I totally agree the fact that graffiti is a special art,but it needs to be drawn in a right place

93 users have voted.
hooi yi1998's picture
hooi yi1998 23 February, 2013 - 08:08

i think graffiti art is a very cool painting. Graffiti is a great painting for our can let our town become more beautiful and colorful.the government should allow graffiti in our town.They should praise the graffiti artists through the newspaper or news, not arrest them. it shows the feeling of the artists too.

140 users have voted.
zzyy's picture
zzyy 23 February, 2013 - 08:05

In my opinion, graffiti is a kind of art. The graffiti artists are really doing a good job in making people to think of the serious problems nowadays. Graffiti artists should get a license as the permit to paint on the walls, not just simply painting here and there. The government should also pay the graffiti artists who really contributed a lot and allow them to paint at certain areas. However, I think that graffiti artists must be 18 or above so that there are no bad words or childish topics. Overall, graffiti artists should cooperate with the government.

138 users have voted.
Sxrxxxh's picture
Sxrxxxh 23 February, 2013 - 08:05

"Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism??"
-Well I think, Graffiti is a kind of modern art. Graffiti also could be a kind of vandalism if we don't know how and where to make them.

"What should we do with graffiti artist??"
-Most of graffiti done by a teenagers. Some of graffiti artists make it as their hobby. So I think, we should give them a reward if their graffiti had done well.

137 users have voted.
Tiffany's picture
Tiffany 23 February, 2013 - 08:03

Graffiti is an art , I love it , it shows what art is ..... I think its cool too .
I think the government should make a 'graffiti zones' for Graffiti Artists .
Every Graffiti Artists must have a permit from the government and they must not below 16 .
Warning may out for those artists who've not enough 16 or does not have a permit .
They can design anything , even politic been draw out by unknown artists ...
I think is a good way to express their feelings and their thoughts to someone .

135 users have voted.
Simon's picture
Simon 24 February, 2013 - 04:23

An age limit might be a good idea for graffiti artists. Anybody else think there should be an age limit for people to become graffiti artists???? Is 16 too young????

Simon (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

146 users have voted.
Miss Lee's picture
Miss Lee 23 February, 2013 - 08:01

I think that graffiti is a form of art , not vandalism :3

Anyone can pick up spray paint and crudely squiggle a line or two ,that is vandalism .Graffiti is a form of self-expression . It takes skills and practice to change the way we look at spray paint , To some people, graffiti is nothing more than bright splotches on a wall .___.

144 users have voted.
eugenie's picture
eugenie 23 February, 2013 - 08:00

Graffiti is Art . If you draw or write something bad , is Vandalism. I think government should let the graffiti artists to have a "graffiti zones" for them to show their amazing drawing . They should held a graffiti competiton and they can win some money . The government should also pay them.

144 users have voted.
chong's picture
chong 23 February, 2013 - 07:56

I think graffiti is a type of art that could express someones thoughts about him or herself and their surroundings.I like it so much because it is colourful and could show ones creativity through that painting.
To graffiti artists, we should respect them and their art. And get a place for them to do their graffity art work.

128 users have voted.
Liang's picture
Liang 23 February, 2013 - 07:55

I think it depends on the situation. If what the artist had painted is nice and has totally NOTHING to do with serious political issues, it is totally fine.

However, if the artist had painted something about political issues or foul words, we really should put a stop to it before it upsets the government...

139 users have voted.
Stella 1998's picture
Stella 1998 23 February, 2013 - 07:53

I think graffiti is an art because it is an awesome and cool painting. I think the government should provide a special zone for the graffiti artists to do their paintings. It makes our town looks beautiful and colorful. But no bad words , that is vandalism. I think the government should not arrest the graffiti artists. They are great artist and they do pretty paintings, tourists can also enjoy the paintings while they are visiting our country. So, the government should allow graffiti in our town.

129 users have voted.
Sharvin's picture
Sharvin 23 February, 2013 - 07:48

I like graffiti because i think it's art for the streets.People who does graffiti must be very creative to beautify the city and not vandalise it.I think graffiti should be allowed by the goverment of Malaysia.

131 users have voted.
Edison99's picture
Edison99 23 February, 2013 - 07:48

In my opinion, graffiti is actually another version of vandalism. The government must not allow graffiti to be published on all the places without control. If graffiti is not controlled, this can lead to public and private properties damage. But, graffiti can be allow in certain places and by certain artist, also it can be a form of decorations.
Graffiti, should be legalize as it may lead to unexpected results, as graffiti is mostly done by teenagers, the words they express may have some impropriate effect or result on the government or peoples.

137 users have voted.
TheLegendXx's picture
TheLegendXx 23 February, 2013 - 07:43

In my opinion i think that graffiti is a good thing for a dull and busy city. and also it's a art for me and some other people, whereas some people thinks that it's a vandalism.

We should give some money for the graffiti artist to buy paints and stuff like that to continue evolute art to a higher level of hobby or something like that. the police should NOT capture the artist as they r just doing something to brighten up the city/town.

well, finally, i would like to say that graffiti is an art, not considered as violating the law or city...

128 users have voted.
Simon's picture
Simon 24 February, 2013 - 04:20

That's true. Graffiti really can brighten up dull parts of the city, a good example is near Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur!

Simon (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

141 users have voted.
Lynn's picture
Lynn 23 February, 2013 - 07:39

Well I think graffiti is a kind of art. Because it will tell someone by using the graffiti, like politic or some message. I think we should do with graffiti artists is like make a Graffiti Zone for them. So that they will use more creative to make graffiti for us to see.

174 users have voted.
howimetenglish's picture
howimetenglish 23 February, 2013 - 04:53

i love graffiti and at the same time i hate is a good art for people.this kind of art is different than others.the goverment should allow graffiti.

162 users have voted.