Face off: Should graffiti art be treated with as much respect as classical paintings?

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Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Joanne Ma |
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Cheang Kai U, 17, Macau Anglican College

I believe graffiti art has the same artistic, historical and cultural value as classical art, and deserves just as much respect. Graffiti artists have been breaking new ground in the art world for decades. Graffiti goes beyond a frame, and its audience is not limited to those who can afford to visit art galleries. And it often contains bold and provocative social messages. 

The artists who led the impressionist movement of the 19th century, which championed new painting techniques and focused on outdoor subjects (think Monet’s Soleil Levant or Renoir’s Dance at Le Moulin de la Gallette), were praised for breaking the mould. Why should we applaud Monet for pushing boundaries, but criticise graffiti artists for doing the same thing?

Like the paintings of cavemen or the etchings on ancient Roman walls, graffiti art gives us insight into the cultural and social context in which it was created. Graffiti artists also use similar techniques  to classical painters, and make decisions about positive and negative shapes, colours, and composition.

We have the power to ascribe value to the art around us. If we devalue and dismiss art because of the medium it is created with, we’ll end up missing out on some beautiful and thought-provoking art – and hold back the development of art itself. 

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Nemo Yu, 14, Carmel Secondary School

I don’t think so. To tackle this question we first need to determine what can be defined as art. To me, art is an expression of human creative skill and imagination.

Next, we need to decide how we value a piece of art. This task is more subjective. I can’t deny that graffiti is a form of art, but does it deserve the same amount of respect as classical paintings? Definitely not.

Graffiti is often created offhandedly and doesn’t require as much time or technical skill as a classical painting does. I think the fact that more time and effort is invested in creating classical works of art means they should get more respect.

We can’t possibly compare the work of artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci, which took several years to finish, with the graffiti tags we pass on the street. Then there are paintings like Along the River During the Qingming Festival by Chinese artist Zhang Zeduan which have deep socio-political meaning. Graffiti art, with the exception of those by Banksy and a few others, is usually not nearly as thoughtful or meaningful.

So do the two forms of art deserve the same amount of respect? My answer is no. I think  it would be unfair to hold graffiti and classical paintings in the same regard.

 

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