Generally, I think graffiti is great. While there is certainly a lot of it that is made without skill, much of it consists of skillfully executed art and social commentary. The fact that graffiti is not approved – and that creating it carries a certain risk for the artist – contributes to the degree to which it is artistically and politically interesting. To an extent, graffiti reveals the true thoughts of a city, as opposed to the comparatively inert and uncontroversial thoughts normally reflected by officially approved public art.
Given all of that, I object to Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s new graffiti reporting plan:
[H]e’s going to charge small businesses to remove the graffiti on their walls, even if the graffiti in question is a beautiful mural that everyone, including the business-owner, approves of
I have photographed graffiti in a wide variety of places, from Vancouver to Helsinki to Marrakesh, and much more often than not what I have seen has been an improvement over the blank wall that preceded it. I certainly don’t think that graffiti should be removed just because one person with a smartphone app complains to the city about it. In particular, if the owner of the property where the graffiti was made approves of it, the graffiti should have the same protection under the law as a blank coat of paint would.
The only sort of graffiti that I really object to is when someone artlessly scrawls their name or some banal slogan on a wall or – even worse – on a nicely executed piece of existing graffiti. That and blatantly offensive graffiti I would not object to seeing removed. As for the rest of it, I recommend leaving it where it is.