What Is Tagging in Graffiti

Tagging is one of the most recognizable and prevalent forms of graffiti art

Tagging is a type of graffiti, and both are forms of contemporary street art. Tagging was popular in urban American cities in the late 20th century before becoming popular worldwide. There are ten main types of graffiti common on the scene today, but none is more ubiquitous with the graffiti movement as the tag. 

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Tagging describes the act of creating a tag, which is a type of signature or symbol that uses an artist’s name or a pseudonym. Tagging is probably the most common form of graffiti and the original style of work. A tag is usually drawn, sprayed, carved, or painted quickly and usually uses only a single color.

However, tags and tagging have become more sophisticated and expanded into more complex forms of graffiti and street art. Elevated forms of tagging include the graffiti styles known as Throw Ups, Blockbuster, Wildstyle, and Heaven or Heaven-spot graffiti. These elevated and complex forms of tagging use more color depth and additional design features. Or, in the case of heaven spot tagging, the artist must reach a more challenging location to do their tag.

Graffiti vs. Tagging

Why Do Graffiti Artists Tag?

Graffiti artists, known as writers, are often misunderstood by society. The earliest graffiti artists used tagging as a means of self-expression and usually one of the few means of expression available to disenfranchised urban youths. 

Alec Monopoly Graffiti street art as fine art

There is motivation in the egotistical pleasure of leaving behind one’s name of legacy, be it a nom de guerre or tag. There is also a sense of rebellion and excitement that comes from tagging and doing something that can be both dangerous and illegal.

While tagging starts as a simple name, it often expands into graffiti with sharp political or societal commentary and can be said to “speak for the streets”.

Alec Monopoly Graffiti street art as fine art

What Is the Point of Tagging?

Many people do not understand the point of tagging, and tags are often dismissed as vandalism. Not everyone will recognize or appreciate the different tagging styles seen on the streets today or appreciate the great lengths some tag artists will go to to create them. 

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Taggers are often anonymous, but they seek to be seen by the tagging community. The tag itself is the artist’s signature, so they want their name or nom de plume to be recognized. 

People have long sought to leave their mark through forms of tagging. Modern graffiti tagging may seem like a 20th-century pop culture phenomenon, but tagging has been around for centuries. 

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There is evidence of ancient tagging on public buildings from ancient Rome and Greece, for example. Tags or names have been painted or scratched in public places for many centuries. 

Another example of widespread tagging is the practice of carving your name into a tree or onto your school desk, or writing a message on a toilet cubicle. These are all common forms of tagging that had been around for many decades before graffiti as we know it took off in the 1970s and 80s. 

Alec Monopoly tagging helicopter

There is a sense of competition in tagging, and artists will try to outdo one another by tagging in unusual spaces or writing over each other’s works.

Unlike street art and some other forms of graffiti art, tagging was not created for a public audience or public enjoyment. Tagging instead aims to promote the tagger’s reputation specifically within the tagging community. Tagging does not seek public approval. Instead, it focuses on the challenge and risk associated with creating the tag in the hardest-to-reach or most daring public spaces. 

Eduardo Kobra painting graffiti mural

What Is the Process of Tagging?

And tagging and graffiti writings or drawings are created in public spaces, often on private or public property. Common surface areas include city walls, storefronts, fences, subway cars, phone boxes, etc. 

Tagging that is created on a canvas or other medium like a traditional artwork is known as graffiti art, but by nature, proper tagging is done illegally without permission. To create a tag, the artist must find a suitable surface and then create their tag, usually using spray paint. 

Buying Graffiti Art

Graffiti is becoming more widely accepted and is popular amongst art collectors. While it generally remains an urban and unauthorized art form, some graffiti art is now making its way into the world of high art. Some taggers or graffiti artists, such as Alec Monopoly, have exhibited worldwide and become household names. 

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Learn more about the differences between graffiti and tagging.

You can explore our range of graffiti art from Eden Gallery artists like Alec Monopoly or Eduardo Kobra in our galleries or our crypto art store to start your street art collection.

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