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Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/19/2011 Category: Arts
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 7,515 times Debate No: 17130
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Well the definition of Art is a non-prescribed purposeful activity, a discipline of perceptual contemplation, an orchestration of symbolic awareness, a participation in the sacredness of creativity and an exercise in expressive craftsmanship. Basically art is a creation by artists in expressing their feelings. On walls is just a type of presentation for them. They lack of care by others and therefore painting graffiti is the method for them to gain attention. If the society can't accept graffiti as a type of art, why don't the government banned it? Why even bothered to call it 'Graffiti ART'?

Graffiti is a type of art, people don't like it and that's fine, as art is subjective. However, it is ridiculous when you didn't like graffiti and saying that is illegal. If you find a piece of sculpture on the street and you hate it, would it be vandalism and illegal as well?!


While that is all well and good, if they are such wonderful artists they need to be hired by someone, not just go out on and paint on somebodies wall. First of all, that person probably does not want someone running in and drawing all over the building that they bought. It is defacing just the same as throwing trash in someone's store is. The reason it is considered vandalism is because they were not given permission to draw all over that man's store, or the back of his house. Society does not accept it because if he wanted someone's name written on his store, then he would hire that person to do it. It does not matter if it looks nice or not because they were not given consent. Everyone also has a different opinion on art, and what looks nice the the "artist" could look absolutely terrible to the owner of that wall.

It is not a matter of the government not liking the graffiti, it is a matter of the fact that it is a violation of the rights of property owners. Every building is owned by someone and graffiti is directly ignoring those rights and putting your own desire to be noticed above it. It is actually quite selfish and in the end, it's illegal.
Debate Round No. 1


First of all, some of the arguments that you have raised are quite strong, yet it requires some clarification and discuss.

"While that is all well and good, if they are such wonderful artists they need to be hired by someone, not just go out on and paint on some bodies wall."
1. In this line, you are implying that wonderful artists need to be hired, and only these wonderful artists can go out and paint. Well I am fairly sure this is not the case. In Australia, there are numerous Aboriginal artists that are independent and they produce their art themselves.

Also, seeing that I have used this Aboriginal artist example, I will raise another point of argument. If we can consider from an Aboriginals point of view, we can see the wide open space they have as their 'city', and caves and trees (basically everything in the natural environment) are the 'walls' and 'buildings'. And in fact, that is not illogical to think this way at all, as they do use them as 'landmarks'. So now I will come to my main argument for this point: If artists working on their street art is considered as vandalism, then does it mean that Aboriginal paintings on cave's walls, or carvings on trees is also an act of vandalism, and the fact that Australia is encouraging and selling Aboriginal art, are they supporting 'illegal' acts? I believe the answer is clear.

2. Just need to remind you that the 'somebody's wall' is very likely to be owned by the city council, or the government (i.e. in public area). If you go on Google and image research 'graffiti', then you will realise that most, if not all, of the graffiti is done on walls on the street. It is actually extremely rare that artists would paint over someone's store or the back of someone's house, as this violates the law of invading private properties, and I am sure most artists would be aware of this. Even if there is, as you mentioned, someone that will do such ridiculous act, then to be honest, if I am going to vandalise an actual person's house/building, then really, why bother making up a design, then buy cans of spray paints, and then wait until the someone is away, then paint? A paint bomb would do just as well, maybe even better!

Here, I also raised another point of argument. The definition of vandalism is an activity that can be considered as purposely damaging or destroying something that is good. Well, initially, it is undoubted that there is always a purpose/intention behind everything that everyone do, but by 'purposely damaging or destroying', it is referring to bad, negative intentions, which generally do harm to people or objects. How can graffiti in the public be considered as bad intention/purpose? Imagine if you take away the paints on the wall of the images that you researched as I asked before, you will realise that there is basically no architectural merits within them. So if you think backwards, it means that these unknown, imaginative artists are actually colouring the city! Would you prefer seeing the old, boring, dark tunnels and railway stations than seeing a lively and colourful one?

Next you talked about whether artists have the permission to paint or not, and thank you for the fact that you have mentioned about 'people have different opinions on art'. This means that you have indirectly agreed that graffiti is a type of art.

Personally, I believe that there is a very limited relationship between legal and art. As you say, people have different opinions towards art. So my question is: Why would people allow artists to paint amazing 3-D like artworks on a city's ground, and allow other art works such as the Statue of David, which can possibly be considered as pornography, but still consider graffiti as vandalism? From these examples that I gave, it is clear that art should be considered independently from the law.
"It is not a matter of the government not liking the graffiti, it is a matter of the fact that it is a violation of the rights of property owners."
Firstly, where is the evidence that governments do not like graffiti? And which government are you referring to? If you are saying in general, then I have an objection. If government really hates graffiti, then why the Australian National Gallery would be bothered to purchase street art? Also, one fact to note that the ‘street art' is being placed along with the ‘social and political' posters section, and why would they do that? It is because there is always someone that is going against graffiti and pointlessly arguing that graffiti is vandalism, only for the sake of arguing or political reasons. If you forget about law (which you should as art is the expression of thoughts and creativity, and the lack of emotion in law ruins it), then more than likely that graffiti will be accepted. In addition, I emphasise that graffiti is art, not vandalism, even when some people believe it is against the law.

Another point worth noticing in your argument is the fact that you pointed out the ‘violation of the rights' of people. This argument is not valid because by categorising graffiti is vandalism, you are also taking away the rights for the artists to paint. Graffiti is a type of modern art and it is a great way for some people to express their thoughts, feelings and imaginations. By taking their rights to paint is equal, or even worse than removing a right for people to speak. The fact that I have already mentioned about graffiti is often done in public places have already countered the statement of ‘every building is owned by someone', unless you want to imply that government is ‘someone', then by walking on the street, you can possibly violate the law of invading ‘someone's' property!
Ultimately, I once again emphasise that graffiti is art, not vandalism, as it is a demonstration of creativity, not a destruction of a city's appearance.


Lets start with the way you began your argument. The aboriginal example could hardly be used because it's not in a city. Nobody owns the forest they live in, nor the caves, the government claims some of it but in reality they built none of it. The property in a city, or the government owned walls are a whole different story, they hired someone to build that specific wall, not the one with "David Archer was here" on it. The difference between a public statue and graffiti is that someone went to the city counsel, and asked to put it there, or someone who owned that area asked them to put that statue of David there.
Another point you made was that the government probably does like graffiti, a laughable claim especially for two reasons. First, you said earlier "However, it is ridiculous when you didn't like graffiti and saying that is illegal." and one could easily assume that "you" is a government employee or a part of the legislation branch, this directly contradicts your argument. Second, if they liked it, it wouldn't be illegal in the first place and we would never have had this debate. While some people may not consider it to be vandalism; it really is. The simple fact is that nobody gave the "artist" permission to deface their wall with an image that they did not ask for and if they don't want it on their wall then you should not put it there in the first place. The government might hire them if they ask to be hired, but randomly walking up to a wall and advertising your expertise with a paint can on public property is completely unacceptable.
The simple fact is that when you own a piece of property or a wall, you don't have to allow people to paint on it, and guess what, the government likes their walls the way they are and not you, or anybody else gets to tell them that they cant keep their wall the way they like it. Nobody cares how it looks, even if you murder a terrible person who raped somebody, you would still be arrested because murder is murder, and vandalism is vandalism no matter in what shape it comes in.
Debate Round No. 2


RiceBucket forfeited this round.


Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by drmigit2 5 years ago
considering he forfeits, i guess i win? haha
Posted by Thaddeus 5 years ago
It doesn't have to be about whether it is legal or not. You, as con, just have to affirm it is both, and that it is a false dichotomy.
Posted by drmigit2 5 years ago
This is now essentially a debate as to if it should be legal or not because graffiti is literally both.
Posted by shooterboss 5 years ago
I would say both.
Posted by Deathbeforedishonour 5 years ago
lol grafitti is both art and vandalism, but it sure is fun. :)
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Chuck Norris wins! But yeah, forfeited round, plus the fact that the wall might be public property does not change the fact that it very commonly isn't.