Atlanta Graffiti Artist Defaces $98 Million City Project: How Does This Apply To Museum Politics and Art Institutions?

(Photograph Source: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/5-things-know-atlanta-streetcars-vandalized-graffi/nnkZC/)

By Faron Manuel

As a new week begins in Atlanta, the news of streetcars on the beltline being vandalized is on the lips of many; due to an unidentified graffiti artist slipping past security to deface two city owned trolley cars in the wee hours of this past Tuesday morning. The practice of graffiti or illegal display of art on both private and public property is as old as the artist, as well as the state and private property. This phenomenon gained more attention in the 1980s than ever with the rise of Hip Hop music, and is possibly the upshot of street artist seeking attention, and representation, which has been historically regulated by the museums and galleries for the most part. Still, though affiliated with Hip Hop the practice and embrace of graffiti artwork of the 1980s transcends race, and is still popular among many art enthusiast to this very day. Also, currently many popular museums and galleries occasionally feature works by graffiti artist. This trend began after Fab Five Freddie, a friend and contemporary of artist Jean Michele Basquiat began to gain acclaim among potential museum patrons due to his illegal public works, and as a result later was invited to present works in major museums (assuming that the statute of limitations expired long before this began to happen).

(Early graffiti work of Fab Five Freddy adaptation of famous Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup cans on NY subway train. Image Source: http://www.fatcap.com/article/fab-5-freddy.html)

(Image source: https://www.yahoo.com/music/bp/catching-yo-mtv-raps-original-hosts-fab-5-210109308.html?nf=1)

With all things considered, the drive to get patrons through museum doors has caused many museums to embrace art forms, and artist that are outside of the traditional modal of the mainstream art institution. Also, many efforts have been made by both owners of private property, as well as the state to stave off the vandalism of property. For example, in the past the city government of Atlanta has collaborated with local artist to implemented initiatives like the Living Walls project, which is arguably aimed at addressing the issues of public access to art, and a deterrent for graffiti artist.

(Axel Void’s wall for the 2013 Living Walls conference, Castleberry Hill neighborhood, Atlanta. Photo by Alix Taylor.)

Still this week’s trolley car incident proves that there is no holistic solution to eliminating graffiti, as visual artist across the spectrum will seek and find ways to get their work to the public, weather those means are legal or not…

(Image of tweet from @JenBrettAJC, source: Twitter.com)

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