Graffiti in Valletta – is this Art or Vandalism?

picture taken by Michelle Buhagiar

picture taken by Michelle Buhagiar

This morning graffiti have been painted on the still-to-be-finished grand Valletta entrance. Seeing the picture on Facebook I thought it looked good and not having read what it was about I had this impression that this wasn’t Malta.

From that first glance I thought it was a minimalist art installation in some foreign capital. I mentally bookmarked and continued scrolling on my merry way until I saw the news item crop up on The Times that is.

I curiously clicked the link and the news item was all about this ‘vandal’ who defaced the Valletta entrance way. And then the dilemma struck me. Is this Art or Vandalism?

The picture taken of the graffiti is beautiful (kudos to the photographer, whom I understand is very much against the graffiti) which makes it very hard to condone as wrong. But aside from the aesthetic qualities, this raises some questions;

Was this simple self expression or was the artist trying to make a statement?

After all this happened only a few days after the issue of Pjazza Teatru Rjal and its inaccessibility to artists, even when this space was promised to be the people’s theater. Was the artist trying to address the lack of space for arts and culture in Malta? Needless to say the location of the graffiti is very apt, considering Valletta is meant to be the European Capital of Culture in 2018 and yet we still do not have a museum of modern art or any decent space for smaller artists and performers to meet, organise exhibitions, collaborate, etc.

Looking at the photo it is immediately noticeable that these aren’t the usual thug, half arsed graffiti. There is heart and thought behind it. What is depicted is a positive image, an image of love. It’s minimalist in nature and from the view of this photo it almost compliments Renzo Piano’s vision.

The more I look at the photo the more thorn I feel inside. I understand that it IS wrong for graffiti to be painted on newly finished works. The Valletta entrance already has a vision and unfortunately outside art installations such as this one aren’t part of it. But this painting does raise a lot of questions, and ones which need to be addressed quickly. In a capital city which is dead in the middle of the night and is meant to play such an important role in 2018 there is a lot to be done, and extra carnivals and festi will simply not do.

So here I am, more confused than when I started writing this; is this art or vandalism? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section below.