Firstly,

Hong Kong Tatler - - The Great Debate -

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

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