let’s define street art—visual artwork created in a clandestine manner on private and public property. From a legal standpoint, street art is generally illegal and can lead to imprisonment. Having said that, I can see its value. During my eight years in England, I saw how the bright colours of graffiti art could brighten up the run-down railway bridges and walkways. Increasingly, however, graffiti is appearing on public sculptures and the exterior walls of beautiful buildings in business districts around the world, which isn’t as acceptable. Beautiful art in one person’s eyes may be offensive in another’s. While there are notable, established street artists such as Invader, who installed more than 70 interesting pieces around Hong Kong, there are hundreds of others who produce eyesores. So who decides what’s “art” to be protected and what’s vandalism to be removed? It’s very subjective and a difficult topic for authorities, as public sentiment is often for preserving street art. I can appreciate that the illegality might fuel creativity—art made under pressure could be more dynamic than that which is approved and designated for a particular place. But I’d still prefer to see it in dedicated venues, where it can be better appreciated.
Cheng is an investigations lawyer and a keen supporter of the arts in Hong Kong