The Wall Street Journal limns the battle between graffiti and street art personified in the war between Robbo and Banksy in North London. Robbo, the old-school tagger, has come out of retirement to paint over some of Banksy’s work in retaliation for having his work painted over:
“I didn’t paint over a ‘Robbo’ piece. I painted over a piece that said ‘mrphfgdfrhdgf’,” he said. “I find it surreal when graffiti writers get possessive over certain locations. I thought that having a casual attitude towards property ownership was an essential part of being a vandal.”
The battle between lost legend and acclaimed artist highlights a larger rift in the art world. On one side are old-school graffiti writers who “tag” or “bomb” their names in as many places as possible and seldom, if ever, seek compensation for their work.
On the other are street artists, who aim for a political or cultural resonance and also create portable pieces they can exhibit and sell. Their prototype is Banksy, who exists in the art world as both renegade and establishment darling.
The tension between the camps is about more than money and fame. With the exception of a few designated places, painting graffiti on private or public property is illegal. Graffiti writers, whose freehand, spray-painted work can take hours to produce, are more likely to be caught than street artists who often use stencils and posters to get in and out more quickly.
“It’s so easy for them to do some of their stuff,” says David Samuel, a London graffiti artist who, through his agency, RareKind, promotes fellow writers by putting on shows and linking them up with paid work.
A Game of Tag Breaks Out Between London’s Graffiti Elite (Wall Street Journal)