Pretty much everywhere you go in Athens it seems a graffiti artist got there first. I actually quite like graffiti, although when I see a lot of it like this it makes me worry how safe a city is; if someone has been able to spray-paint a wall without getting noticed then presumably they wouldn’t be noticed snatching my bag either.
The difference is that the police in Athens don’t bother graffiti artists, or that’s what we were told anyway. So the prevalence of graffiti everywhere is no reflection on the safety of the city. I went on an organized walk with a graffiti artist with the tag RTM, who took us around the Monastiraki area of Athens looking at the street art.
But is it street art though, or is it graffiti? Well luckily we ran into graffiti-ist Senor, who was able to clear that up for us. Apparently it is graffiti. Street art is for the likes of Banksy and others, who view it as a commercial enterprise, and what we were looking at was most definitely graffiti, he told us.
He also alluded to the difference that graffiti artists spray their names or ‘tags’, following on the tradition started in New York in the 1970s. Street art is murals, pictures and commissioned pieces. Certainly, in my mind, street art implies a certain legality about it, whereas graffiti brings to mind images of teenagers furtively spraying their names on the wall whilst their mate keeps a look out for the police.
Senor said he had been spray painting walls since the age of twelve and had left his mark in various locations around Europe.
We also visited the graffiti shop in Melanthiou Street where many of the artists come to buy their supplies.