A crime? Defacement of property? Or freedom of expression in a politicised, creative and often satirical art form?
I side with the latter view point but it’s easy to see why political figures of authority in the past have not, especially when they are often the subject matter of these artists’ pieces!
I’m by no means an expert and nothing even close to an artist myself, but coming from the country of Banksy I’ve always held an admiration and interest in this rebellious painted social commentary. From what I’ve heard, seen and learnt I can gather that graffiti in the city of Bogotá really exploded into the mainstream back in 2011. A young artist was shot by police in that year leading to protests, condemnation by the UN and more widespread tolerance and appreciation of graffiti amongst the general population, as they united against police brutality and suppression of the arts. Eventually the government relented, simultaneously embracing and promoting graffiti by decriminalising it.
Nowadays graffiti in the city is less of an underground affair, Bogotá’s standing in the global graffiti community can be observed by the sheer number of revered international artists now lending their designs to the walls of the city. An infamous poorly judged attempt by the pop singer Justin Bieber to try his hand at graffiti, was hastily rebuked and painted over within hours of his departure! It’s a complex and often intricate art, making it disrespectful for someone to just assume they can paint with no practice. Rumour has it that the poor handling of this incident by the police led to the infamous 24 hour graffiti protest on Calle 26.
As I mentioned before, Bogotá seems to be held in high esteem in the graffiti community and now local artists are often commissioned to paint facades for businesses and individuals alike, regularly choosing to show their technical skill rather than making culturally or politically provocative pieces. It would be satisfying to believe that respect for other artists work always prevails but often murals change, people tag over beautiful pieces and so called “out of bounds” areas are painted over. Mindless tagging of monuments etc. can be an issue but as one famous artists put it, telling a graffiti artist where they can or cannot paint is kind of against the point!