13 Sep 2011

Legalised Graffiti in Ghent

Ever since I saw stencil graffiti in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires, I've come to quite like some kinds of graffiti. I don't like the illiterate tagging that lines the railway tracks in London or anarchic ranting, but the artistic stuff isn't bad. In Buenos Aires, some of the stencils were in English, and usually a bit humourous, although always a bit political. Not sure about the Michael Jackson one.

There's some great stuff in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. Here's a couple I noticed at the bottom of a couple of shops.

Barrio Bellavista in Santiago de Chile has enormous amounts of graffiti; the area is renowned for its local artists.

Finding a Banksy is always satisfying; there's definitely something intriguing about the elusive character. The one on the left, in Bristol, has been hit with paintballs - vandalism of graffiti...

So I was quite interested when I read in my guide book to Ghent that there was a famous graffiti street - Werregarenstraat - bang in the middle of the old town. It has been designated as an area where anyone can come and do their graffiti stuff. It is a busy alleyway, used as a cut-through by ordinary passers-by, who climb over the paint pots and spray paint cans, passing artists at work. As we got there we saw two guys with ladders and big paint-brushes painting large areas white, over others' work. This is how it works: you paint your stuff and sooner or later someone will come and paint over it with theirs. I guess there's some sort of etiquette or code, but who knows how it works in practise. But it gives young artists a chance to get their work seen.
Some argue that it defeats the purpose of graffiti, as graffiti is a means of expressing political dissatisfaction through vandalism (or whatever!) and if it's allowed then it's not vandalism. But there seems to be enough people who leave their mark, so they must be okay with the whole idea. In the rest of Ghent there is only a small smattering of graffiti that we saw; the usual vandalistic rubbish!
Here's a selection of scenes from the street, in a mix of colour, black & white and sepia:


  1. Hi Sophie, I like your blog so much! I live in Buenos Aires, sadly many of the art work about my beloved Michael Jackson is very bad taste, he doesn´t deserve that. Do you remember where is the MJ graffiti? thanks so much, Viviana

    1. Hi Viviana, thanks for your comment!
      The photo was taken in San Telmo, a few minutes walk from Plaza Dorrego, but I don't know which street. Lots of great graffiti in a great city!