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The Evolution of Graffiti

Graffiti or “graffito” (meaning scratched in Italian) has been around for centuries and has been found on ancient Greek buildings and monuments, even being traced back to Alexander’s time in the fourth century BC. But it really took off in the 1960’s as a form of anti-war mode of expression. In recent times it has acquired notoriety from gangs who prefer to spray paint their territorial boundaries. However, it has become a matter of global interest now and seen as a form of self expression by artists rather than unwanted vandalism. Most importantly, graffiti today has achieved a certain degree of social credibility, something that could not be imagined even three decades back.

From the perception of graffiti as a form of protest to being transformed into an insight of art and urban storytelling, it has taken time to evolve to its present acceptance levels. While a specific point of time when this change occurred cannot be pinpointed with any degree of accuracy, it is believed that works of the infamous graffiti artist Bansky or American Shepard Fairey and the OBEY sticker campaigns hastened this transformation. Add to it the spread of messages over social media platforms and it is not difficult to realise why graffiti has today evolved into a tale of social activism.

Graffiti got its due recognition officially in 2011 when Ted Lederer, the Director and Curator of the Vancouver-based Elliott Louis Gallery held the first graffiti exhibition titled letters. Well known artists from Vancouver participated in the show. Its success resulted in a repeat show in 2012. However, in spite of the positive acceptance of graffiti as an art form there are still restrictions on free expression and permission has to be taken from concerned authorities if walls are to be defaced with graffiti.