Socialist Worker

A Brief History of Graffiti—the politics of street art

by Hamza Sharif
Issue No. 2469

Graffiti at Palais De Tokyo, Paris

Graffiti at Palais De Tokyo, Paris (Pic: BBC/Kaboom Film & TV/Charles Furneaux)

As part of the BBC’s pop art season, art historian Richard Clay looks at how humans have always needed to make a mark. 

The programme’s focus is on the marks made by ordinary people, who are denied other means to express themselves. 

He looks at the beauty of street art throughout history—the range is impressive. 

We see the messages Russian soldiers scrawled in the Reichstag building in Berlin in 1945. Then we’re back in the Stone Age looking at cave paintings. 

Clay also explores why graffiti is presented as a form of vandalism and rejected by the authorities.  

He explains that this dates back to the French revolution of 1789 and the radical political ideas expressed through graffiti and street art back then. 

BBC Four 
Available on BBC iPlayer

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