Graffiti vs. Tagging

Graffiti and tagging are two forms of contemporary street art that rose to popularity in urban cities in the late 20th century. To an outsider, graffiti and tagging may seem like the same thing. 

Graffiti vs. Tagging

In this article, we’ll explore the history of graffiti and the differences and similarities between graffiti and tagging.

Tagging Vs. Graffiti

Graffiti can describe any writings or drawings created on a surface in a public space. Tagging refers explicitly to writing the artist’s signature (or their pseudonym name or logo) on a public surface. 

Alec Monopoly tagging helicopter

This distinct signature is known as a “tag”, and the artist is referred to colloquially as a “tagger”. Tagging is the original and simplest form of graffiti; it is also the most common and can be seen in cities worldwide.

Graffiti may seem like a modern 20th-century art phenomenon. But tagging in its most basic form has been around for centuries.

It was common practice even in ancient Greek and Roman times for people to paint or scratch their names on the surface of public buildings. You can still find some of this ancient graffiti on historical buildings even today. 

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that graffiti innovators created the street art culture we recognize today as graffiti. Artists like Cornbread and other youths in New York and Philadelphia started tagging their names on public surfaces. The locations for these tags became more inventive and more challenging to reach as tagging culture matured. 

Alec Monopoly tagging helicopter

Taggers will try to outdo each other by tagging over each other’s works or tagging in unusual spaces. Through the 70s and 80s, subway trains were a prime canvas for taggers, and they became so obscured with graffiti tags you could no longer see through the windows. 

The different styles of graffiti and tagging can be found below. Tagging is a graffiti style, but not all graffiti types will focus on the artist’s name or signature. Graffiti is a much broader term that can include more graphic designs and images, stickers, poster graffiti, stencil art, or even urban knitting.

Types of Tagging

  • Tags or Tagging
  • Fat Cap
  • Throw Ups
  • Blockbuster
  • Bubble
  • Wildstyle
  • Heaven or Heaven-spot

Types of Graffiti

  • All styles of Tagging
  • Stencil art
  • Poster or Paste-Up
  • Sticker or Slap
  • Piece or Brush
  • 3D Graffiti
  • Cartoon
  • Yarn bombing

What Is the Difference Between Graffiti Tagging and Graffiti Art?

Graffiti art is a contemporary art form that takes inspiration from the processes and methods behind street graffiti and brings them into traditional artworks. Graffiti art might be created on a canvas or other painting surface. Like other forms of fine art, graffiti art can be transported, sold, and exhibited. 

It is impossible to sell or exhibit street tagging. Street tags stay on the building they were sprayed on until they are either removed or tagged over. Taggers are working illegally and do not usually want to be widely recognized outside their circles. 

Some illegal graffiti is preserved and kept on display, most notably the work of the artist Banksy. But the unknown street artists and taggers can not receive payment for these works, and they would be difficult to sell without removing entire walls or sections of buildings. 

Some graffiti artists and street artists like Eduardo Kobra or Clem$ have moved away from creating illegal street art and transitioned into more formal artwork. These graffiti style artists may create works both on the street by commission or on canvas and other traditional surfaces. They will typically still use spray paint or other methods of street graffiti, such as stenciling. 

Eduardo Kobra painting graffiti mural

Several of these graffiti artists are becoming well-known. However, many artists who work in graffiti styles, like Alec Monopoly, still keep an element of mystery around their identity. This anonymity is rooted in graffiti street culture.

There are other differences between graffiti art and tagging, which relate to how they are publicly perceived. Street art and graffiti art are perceived as constructive; it has become popular in the mainstream to beautify a neighborhood with graffiti or street art and attract tourists. Tagging, however, is often still viewed as being destructive, and the most basic tags are still widely considered vandalism. 

Street art and graffiti art are created for a public audience. However, graffiti tagging promotes the tagger’s reputation within the tagging community – it is not usually intended to be enjoyable for the public. 

Eduardo Kobra graffiti mural mona lisa leonardo davinci

Both taggers and graffiti artists can be talented and show extraordinary artistic skill. However, graffiti artists spend time crafting artworks using techniques found in traditional painting so that their artworks can be widely enjoyed. Tagging, however, focuses more on the challenge and risk associated with creating the artwork in hard-to-reach or public spaces. 

Both tagging and graffiti can be illegal, rebellious, and political. It can be beautiful or challenging. Graffiti artists bring the techniques and themes artists have honed in the streets into our houses and private collections, sparking new conversations about the purpose of art. You can explore graffiti art and street art of Eden Gallery artists in our galleries or our crypto art store.


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