If you haven't heard by now, on Sunday night the Modern Wing of the Art Institute was tagged by graffiti artists, or 'writers.'
Yes, Renzo Piano's pristine $294 million addition to the Art Institute has been deflowered. On Monday, Mayor Daley's Graffiti Blasters team was outside of the East face of the building sandblasting the work away. The big problem will be, I imagine, that the Indiana limestone that Piano used in construction will be marred and etched by the removal and the graffiti itself. Graffiti site Fat Caps and Chrome has some pictures of the work before and during its removal by the Blasters.
Graffiti art, or writing, is something that I feel strongly about and feel strongly that it is art. In November of last year I wrote an editorial for ArtSlant discussing the issues attending graffiti's general acceptance or lack thereof. In particular I discussed large spray painted murals, 'burners' or 'pieces,' and actually included an image in the essay by H2O (above), one of the artists who tagged the Modern Wing.
While I have made my stance and opinions on graffiti clear, it's extremely unfortunate that these artists chose to tag the museum. That's not the way to ingratiate yourself to a venue that you, or others who are serious about graffiti as an art form, may hope to work with some time in the future. I think it makes the work less serious, it brings it to the level of vandalism than it does art. This sentiment is echoed on the Fat Caps and Chrome site: "Meanwhile, if we want to be respected as artists, we must respect other
artists. This isn't just another building, it's a work of art in itself." Writing on the Modern Wing is the equivalent of a cross out (when a graffiti artist sprays a line over another work) of Renzo Piano's work.
Finally I'm reminded of what Mario Ybarra, Jr., also an artist who has employed graffiti, said about writers and their situation of being outside the museum (from the previously mentioned essay):
the side of graf[fiti] kids that have no understanding of art history,
just to be honest with you, they have to understand the museum, as an
institution, and if they're even interested in working within it. They
need to know the language of the museum, and work within [the museum's]
constructs . . . an artist interested in showing in the museum and
dealing with the museum, but who wants to hang on to a piece of
graffiti culture, [has] to know both. If someone doesn't understand the
museum or its art, you can't just dismiss it and be like, "That's so
wack, I don't understand that." That's like not learning a language
even though you want to communicate with someone. You have to
understand both languages.