What is the difference between graffiti and street art? The later is art but that is just a deductive point and the actual difference may be very subtle, like the difference between a carton of Campbell’s soup cans and Warhol’s cartons of Campbell’s soup cans in an art gallery. Part of the difference is that one is in an art gallery and the other is not but that is neither a necessary nor a sufficient difference, a point that seems to have been lost on some wannabe street artists. The white walls around Sutton Gallery in Fitzroy have become covered with graffiti as if this brings the writers closer to art. And now the stairwells of Westspace and Bus artist-run-spaces are becoming covered with tags. Outside Westspace I saw two pairs of shoes hanging from a wire. There are tags on their soles: Drew & Putz. If you sign it does it make it art?
But there are still more desperate acts of wannabe art on exhibition in Melbourne. When I visited No Vacancy the smell of aerosol was in the air as Swifty prepared a Susuki hatchback to do a ‘live’ piece at the opening. The Urban Dictionary defines “Like a Swifty” as a incredibly bad or embarrassing performance at something which the person/s tried hard at. This sums up “The Swifty Show” at No Vacancy Gallery. I have never seen such a derivative exhibition, there is less original content in it than a photocopier. Swifty is a British street-style designer who wants to be Pop artist and thinks that by re-branding Andy Warhol’s and Jasper Johns’ old images he will be one. Simply re-branding Vegemite jars or Campbell’s soup cans with his own “Swifty” logo is the work of a designer rather than be an artist. I don’t know what fool thinks that this is wit or the sophisticated work of “an unrepentant acolyte of the post hip hop sampling generation”. Swifty’s work might have pseudo-intellectual appeal if you have read a child’s guide to Pop Art.
I don’t know why so many street artists are desperate to get into art galleries when really they could earn a better living as designers than wannabe artists.