Save Thousands Of Years And Preserve Graffiti Now:
May 4, 2002 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Save Thousands Of Years And Preserve Graffiti Now: Bijan Omrani playfully argues for the preservation of contemporary graffiti in Oxford's august Bodleian Library. Perhaps they're the modern equivalent of the Lascaux cave paintings. "Kilroy was here" notwithstanding, witty graffiti can be found on walls all around the world. Shouldn't some sort of repository be created to safeguard this undeniably pure - and unfairly overlooked - form of popular expression? I'm sorry to say I couldn't find one single good written graffiti site on the Web. Does anyone know of one - or at least have a memorable graffito to share with the rest of us?
posted by MiguelCardoso (25 comments total)
Here's site with some great vintage stuff. and the Graffiti Writers section of is pretty comprehensive as well. Here in the northeast, many of us are of two minds on graffiti. Bad graffitti is annoying vandalism, good graffiti is public art or in the case of bathroom wall type stuff, public humor writing.
posted by jonmc at 9:04 AM on May 4, 2002

A building compound wall near the building I used to live in had "Lennon is god" on it, and it's been there fore over twenty years, and that's the one I always remember.

Art Crimes has a bunch of links to graffiti sites, and a few images here and there.

As for the topic, I don't think all graffiti should be preserved, because most of the times it's just territorial markings by various gangs. Re-painting graffitied walls costs a lot of money, and ultimately it's paid for by the tenants/residents.
posted by riffola at 9:06 AM on May 4, 2002

Art Crimes is a good place to start. They also have a big list of graffiti sites in their links section. And Scribble Magazine had some interesting stuff, although they seem to be in the middle of changing things, so you can't go anywhere but the front page at the moment.

As for preservation of graffiti, I think most of the artists that do it understand the transience of the form. They know their finest piece of work will probably be tagged the minute they walk away, covered over, or stripped off. That's just the nature of graffiti.

With specific regards to the toilet graffiti in the library mentioned in the article, if someone wants to document it, go ahead, but preserved? Nah.
posted by mikhail at 9:53 AM on May 4, 2002

I feel so strongly about toilet graffiti, I signed a partition...
posted by salmacis at 9:56 AM on May 4, 2002

I've said it before and I'll say it again - that Banksy kid is good. While I do love the stuff he does on the streets, this canvas work is undoubtedly my favourite because it's just so purty and still says something.
posted by MUD at 9:56 AM on May 4, 2002

For those of you familiar with San Francisco, I've had the opportunity to go deep into the bowels of the San Francisco Honda building at the corner of Market & Van Ness. If you know your history, you know that this was the old Fillmore West where Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Franklin and Miles Davis gave legendary performances.

Even though the building was converted into a car dealership, there are still remnants of the old building including the ticket windows and parts of the old bathrooms and stairwells. There's also, surprisingly, still a lot of old graffiti there from concert-goers. Much of it is junk graffiti, random scrawlings, profanity etc. but one could argue that it has some historical value, no?
posted by vacapinta at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2002

I saw Free George Davies EVERYWHERE when I grew up.

From what I remember he was freed too... then re-offended and was stuck back inside.

The other one I remember from my young days was prominent on the side of a bridge white girls are deeper at that age I had no idea what it meant.
posted by selton at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2002

weegie graffiti.
posted by the cuban at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2002

My favourite - at college there was a free-standing ashtray in the sciences department. Above the ashtray was a sign that read: Despite the presence of the ashtray, smoking is not permitted

Underneath which was neat handwriting: Ah, but who are we to believe, the sign or the ashtray?

And then in slightly messier handwriting: Bloody philosophy students
posted by calico at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2002

here's two I enjoy:

-As you cross the Sellwood bridge here in Portland, there's a sign that says "Men below please don't throw" which I always thought was funny in itself. Then someone added a WO to the beginning of the sign. Heh.

-We have these billboards of Daisy Fuentes that say "Daisy takes folic acid. Do you?" and an alarmingly large picture of her accompanies this public service announcement. Well, on one of these, someone covered up folic. They did a pretty good job, too. So now when I see the others, I giggle because all I can think of is "Daisy takes acid. Do you?"
posted by verso at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2002

Graffiti in florence. (this is a self-link, but highly relevant)
posted by pinto at 11:47 AM on May 4, 2002

On hand dryers in the bathroom:

1. Press button
2. Rub hands under warm air

[Hand written]

3. Wipe hands on pants

Sooo true. I've never used one once where I haven't wiped my hands on my clothes as I walked out.
posted by readymade at 12:30 PM on May 4, 2002

Since the city got big on scrubbing tags a few years back, Seattle has almost no outdoor historical graffiti. There used to be one along a retaining wall just past the the underpass to the University Bridge where Campus Parkway curves up and connects thereto--


That was a favorite.

There's a 'Free Huey' in an alley on Capitol Hill somewhere.

There used to be one in the Blue Moon tavern I liked, too--

Beat Me, Whip Me
Call Me Irresponsible...

Oh, and one on a column under the 520 floating bridge you could see from a canoe:


Also, the once ubiquitous' Tina Chopp Is God'--that was everywhere.
posted by y2karl at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2002

I actually run (or rather used to, I don't update them anymore) two graffiti sites: [hUH?] and Warsaw Represent. But it's probably not the graffiti most people want to preserve.

Yeah, it's self linking.

Yeah, I suck.
posted by jedrek at 2:40 PM on May 4, 2002

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has Viking graffiti from ca. 1000 AD. It says Halvdan was here.

readymade: The classic World Dryer instructions are frequently altered in a standard way. (The one I usually see for #3 is stop auto_at__ally.)

A famous graffiti'd natural location in the US is Pompey's Pillar, which includes the signature of explorer William Clark.

There was a flap about Soviet army graffiti left on the Reichstag

There even seems to be a project to collect it, in Europe anyway.
posted by dhartung at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2002

Royal Leamington Spa has some of the best grafitti in the known world including:

Thank you Belgium
Have you seen my cat?
Bernard Kirton smokes dope
James Michaels knits ladies sweaters
I know Willy Thorne
Out Demons Out

and the immortal:

Avoid Cider
posted by Spoon at 3:04 PM on May 4, 2002


a familiar sight around Ann Arbor in the early 90's.

Thank you Belgium
Have you seen my cat?
Bernard Kirton smokes dope
James Michaels knits ladies sweaters
I know Willy Thorne
Out Demons Out

seems like Beys stuff on 'Poetic Terrorism"
posted by clavdivs at 3:15 PM on May 4, 2002

"My mother made me a homosexual!"
"Can she make me one too, but in a nice winter color?"

Most Strangely Touching:
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:18 PM on May 4, 2002

"Kneejerk opposition is as bad as mindless acceptance" (Cuba St, Wellington).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:37 PM on May 4, 2002

seems like clavidvs' stuff on 'Post-etic Terrorism"
posted by y2karl at 8:37 PM on May 4, 2002

oops, clavdivs' stuff
posted by y2karl at 8:38 PM on May 4, 2002

On Bute St, Cardiff, now scrubbed: Independant Tropical Wales - given the relative advances of devolution and global warming, who knows which'll arrive first.

Another favourite is the slogan Cofia Dryweryn (remember Tryweryn, the Welsh valley drowned to provide water for Liverpool). The best known instance of this, on the A487 near Aberystwyth, is retouched from time to time, and has been the subject of paintings by Aneurin Jones and Ivor Davies.
posted by ceiriog at 5:25 AM on May 5, 2002

My other favourites have to include any really badly spelt or grammatically incorrect graffitit:
Tony Blair; Reggy Kray has served 30 years?

and the truly great:
Fuk Ov Bastids.
posted by Spoon at 3:48 PM on May 5, 2002

Oh, my other favorite Seattle graffiti is in the Eastlake Zoo Tavern's
--there's an unvisited web site--mens room where underneath a
I Fucked Your Mother! over the urinal, someone wrote
Dad, you're drunk--go home...
posted by y2karl at 6:55 PM on May 5, 2002

portland has/had the lovejoy ramp murals.
posted by kliuless at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2002

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