When is Graffiti Art and When is it Vandalism?
The graffiti artist known as Tox has been convicted because a jury decided his art was vandalism. His street art consists of his name with the last two digits of the year.
We all love Banksy: his environmentally-themed graffiti art is followed by many and sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But this guy is going to get a few years in jail. What's the difference? When is graffiti vandalism and when is it art?
Tox has been at it for 10 years. He is considered to be the number one most prolific graffiti writer in London graffiti history. The subway system is covered with his tags and he has been charged and arrested before. He claimed that others were copying his tags and that he had retired. However he has been spotted many times since; he just can't stop.
At the trial there was a disagreement over whether his graffiti was art or not. Everyone is an authority. The prosecutor said "He is no Banksy. He doesn't have the artistic skills, so he has to get his tag up as much as possible."
Another graffiti artist, turned straight tried to help. Ben Flynn, known as Eine famously had one of his pictures given to President Obama by Prime Minister Cameron. He said that ""His statement is Tox, Tox, Tox, Tox, over and over again." According to the Guardian,in his opinion, the Tox "tags" or signatures, and "dubs" (the larger, often bubble lettering) were "incredibly basic" and lacking "skill, flair or unique style".
The anarchic spirit of graffiti is fun and exciting. Banksy spreads an environmental message in his that is popular and accessible. But it is not only a question of whether graffiti is art or not, there is also the matter of graffiti and the law.
Some would make a distinction between Tox's repetitive tagging and the more creative pieces by the likes of Eine and Banksy. But in the eyes of the law, if it's private property and it is defaced then there is a penalty, regardless of the artistic merit. The police have spent years trying to catch him because he has caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. They believe that it isn't art, just "selfish vandalism that not only scars the railway environment but contributes to fear of crime."