Young artists are putting down their spray cans for smartphones, causing graffiti art to die off as a result.
“Contemporary graffiti writing is changing -- it is no longer an activity that is played out in urban environments, but also on the Internet,” Nicola Harding, a Ph.D. criminology student at Manchester Metropolitan University, told the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Manchester in early April.
She found that, since the early 2000s, a soaring number of graffiti artists are writing on council-run 'legal walls' where street art is permitted, and making profits by sharing this work on Instagram, Youtube and other social media platforms.
Thus, they avoid the risks of being injured or even arrested that spraying graffiti near off-limits areas could bring.
Graffiti has been a way for young men of low socio-economic status to take risks to achieve sub-cultural kudos. But now better-off artists are able to achieve this reputation more quickly by using their higher economic status to bypass the risk caused by urban graffiti writing.
“The rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer,” said Harding.
Some traditional graffiti artists, if not all, look down on those who paint on 'legal walls' and the Internet.
“There are guys that only do legal walls and contracts, but for me that's not graffiti. Graffiti is part of street culture,” said a writer online.
Another said that graffiti artists should learn the ropes by writing on the street. “Basically learn your history, pay your dues, and respect those that came before you.”
“The notion of paying their dues before being considered a part of graffiti sub-culture and respected writer is a strong one within graffiti sub-culture. For graffiti writers who paid their dues before the birth of social media, cyberspace graffiti is too mainstream for them to want to be identified with,” Harding said at the conference.