Glancing over a neighboring New York Post on the bus, I was shocked to read that a new law forbids anyone under the age of 21 to buy spray paint…and markers! This is the first I have heard about it, and forgive me if I am less than informed. I thought that street graffiti were akin to a radical, anarchistic form of art that bred the like of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. In my neighborhood, they actually enhance the grimness of the grey metal storefronts. Is this another ‘let them jews wear a yellow star’ thing? Or a simple case of ‘duh’?
There are two issues here:
One, are graffiti markings vandalism or art? Don’t they provide a much-needed form of self-expression in an unforgiving modern metropolis, as well as street entertainment for the passers-by? Isn’t this new law another restriction to freedom of expression? When I first came to New York, one of the attractions of the city was this wild form of art which I had never seen before in my native, uptight and bourgeois Paris.
And two, even if one considers graffiti as a negative, are teenagers under 21 in general really responsible for graffiti? Isn’t it more likely that graffiti art is created by gang artists who actually plan and execute this as a work of art? And that if they want to obtain spray paint, they will – even if it is illegal.