By Karina Andrianova

Be Banksy or be arrested. Watch your back or hide in Shoreditch because street art is a fast track to jail in Britain. 

While Banksy makes millions selling his pieces, many young street artists are awaiting a court’s decision for expressing themselves in the exact same way.

So, is street art a fast track to prison or a huge business? If you are lucky enough to become famous, people will admire you and pay thousands of pounds to buy your works. Otherwise, they are likely to call you a vandal and dial the police.

Since graffiti boom in the late 1960s, it has always been a controversial topic. “The law applies more to what can be considered vandalism or graffiti, which constitutes a small aspect of street art,” said Unga, a member of the Broken Fingaz crew, a group of urban artists. He argues that graffiti writers do not want to be considered as street artists. “Many of them believe they are different. Some of them destroy street art with graffiti.”

“In the 2000s street art made a quick move from political protest to a multi-million-pound industry”

According to the survey by POPTICAL, about 85 per cent of respondents cannot determine whether street art is vandalism or art, they believe it depends on the artists and their works. The remaining 15 per cent say that street art has nothing to do with vandalism.

Street art has been developing as an independent form of art and now has grown into several types such as guerilla art, urban art, post-graffiti and neo-graffiti. For example, guerilla art does not have external boundary between the image and environment while urban art combines street art and graffiti.

@credits: Oleksandra Levina

In the 2000s street art made a quick move from political protest to a multi-million-pound industry. Since then people have been spending thousands of pounds on pieces by famous artists. For example, Banksy’s Keep It Spotless was sold for $1,7 m at Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2008. Those, who cannot afford to buy such expensive works, go on exhibitions and tours, buy clothes and cheaper paintings in galleries.

According to the Office of National Statistics, between April 2015 and March 2016 18 per cent reported criminal damage was due to graffiti on the houses, fences, garden items and garages. During the last 10 years there has been only a two per cent decrease in this type of crime.

So, once an artist or a graffiti writer painted on the side of a private house, a landlord decides what happens next. “In my experience there has been no person who did not like my drawings on the walls. I think in the future everybody will appreciate it,” said Aristide Loria, an Italian street artist, who works in Shoreditch. He also believes that the area is special. “I work on the Shoreditch streets illegally. The police stopped me once and did not arrest me. They are more likely to arrest graffitists than other artists like me. Street art is not considered vandalism anymore.”

@credits: Oleksandra Levina

Tom Inglis, student at Westminster university, changed his mind about graffiti after one had appeared on the wall of his own house in North London. “When I saw the painting for the first time, I wanted to remove it immediately. Later, I got used to it and now I cannot imagine my house without a colourful wall. My house stands out among everything around here and I like it,” he said.




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