Answer: not exactly (but it depends who you talk to)
‘Graffiti’ can be used to refer to the instantly recognizable typography and tags you see on urban walls and underpasses: metre-high words in distorted bubble writing or ‘wildstyle’. It’s the harder, older brother of ‘street art’. It is competitive, underground and territorial. And hard to decipher. It comes out of gang battles and 1970s New York ghettos. Each work is unique, painted freehand.
‘Street Art’ is a hybrid, more inclusive younger version of graffiti which grew up in the late 80s. It allows the use of stencils and posters, stickers, mosaics and sculpture…anything goes. It can be quicker to do and, some say, requires less skill with the spray can. Street artists may need to do more pre-planning and carry more kit…glue, a Stanley knife, stencils…. Works may be duplicated using the same stencils or stickers over and over again. Street art encourages a dialogue with the random passerby. Often it doesn’t have any typography, but relies on familiar images that instantly make a narrative connection with the viewer. Because of the stencils, it uses fewer colours than graffiti, typically black and white.
Is it legal?
Unless the owner of the property gives permission, it’s a criminal offence to mark it. But artists often seek out approval or are commissioned. Owners may sell off their wall art, or paint over it as they wish.
Now street art has gone full circle and is in galleries. Bansky’s canvases sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds. In 2006, he staged a hangar-sized show in Los Angeles complete with a living painted elephant seen by some 30,000 people.