- Title: USA: Commercialization of graffiti leads to more money, but also legal disputes
- Date: 4th July 2007
- Summary: (L!3) NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE) (REUTERS) GRAFFITI POSTER BY ARTIST JUDITH SUPINE WORK BY BAST, PART OF THE ARTIST GROUP, FAILE
- Embargoed: 19th July 2007 13:00
- Location: Usa
- Country: USA
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVA5D9KNL8HP6H5UU6WRNDOBI640
- Story Text: Corporations are discovering a lucrative niche in the edgy world of graffiti. Increasingly, large companies like Nike and Adidas are utilizing the hip, street-wise skills that graffiti writers can bring to their brands - in turn, artists are taking advantage of the trend, some demanding credit for their street work. Graffiti on New York City walls, a city which boasts not only an anti-vandalism police squad, but which introduced a law in 2006 to ban the sale of spray paint cans to anyone under the age of 18.
But in the trendy New York neighborhood of SoHo, seven international graffiti writers very publicly spray a fake subway car.
The event was part of an expensive marketing campaign for sports manufacturer, Adidas and was the culmination of the design by the graffiti artists of a footwear collection.
The artists do not consider this corporate involvement a loss in street cred.
Said graffiti writer, Rime, "Graffiti with spray paint is something now that has stepped over a lot of the mainstream's considered boundaries. You see graffiti in places where you wouldn't expect graffiti to be in, you see companies acting in ways that you would assume are irresponsible by collaborating with these criminals."
Specifically commissioned graffiti is appearing more frequently and one artist who has cashed in on his skills is Nicer, one of the founding members of Tat's Cru. Tat's Cru has been involved in the business of creating graffiti mural advertising for more than 10 years, after starting out illegally spraying subway trains in the eighties.
Tat's Cru is currently in a legal battle with medical doctor and part-time photographer Peter Rosenstein, who documented some of the group's publicly visible work, but did request permission to publish it. The book in question "Tattooed Walls" has been taken out of print by the publisher, pending the outcome of the case.
"He gave us credit for walls we didn't do, he put, he gave names to murals that didn't have names. Like, you know, he took it upon himself to just start changing the actual history of it," explained Nicer.
Rosenstein insists that he is not trying to make money from the book, but rather that taking photographs of graffiti is a passion of his.
"If I think something is fair use, I mean if I want to photograph that building, I don't feel like I have to go to a lawyer every time and consult them before I can photograph anything," he said.
Despite the fact that Tat's Cru's work is mostly on public walls, on public streets and publicly accessible, Nicer says that an artist should have a say about the use of his work.
He explained, "I hope people start realizing that, you know what, just because they paint in a public domain, it's not for the taking, its not there to be abused."
There is still a large community of street artists which opposes the popularization of graffiti. Momo, in wacky disguise to hide his identity, has been autonomously creating poster and other street art on city walls for 10 years. He acknowledges the need for artists to make a living, but retains his independence and support for graffiti's original protest ideology.
"Anyone that comes along with their political agenda to put us in boxes is just another cop, or another system that we're rebelling from in the first place. So, again, I think it's up to every person to make their own personal judgment. That might make their work distasteful to me, but it's up to them to find their own way," he said.
The attorney representing Tat's Cru told Reuters that the dispute with Rosenstein and the people connected with "Tattooed Walls" could be resolved through financial compensation.
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