Graffiti in Debt-Ridden Greece: Sophisticated Criticism or Plain Vandalism?

In its fifth year of recession, Greece is trying to tackle economic hardships, political instability and social despair. Stress, anger and despair are taking over Greeks who are finding themselves drawn deeper into their politicians’ stale and inefficient tactics.

According to a recent Reuters report, the prevailing negative emotions and general outrage are reflected through the graffiti art spreading on walls, buildings and historical monuments across Greece.

Athens in particular is witnessing a colorful and sophisticated change in most parts of its urban landscape, where clever and often biting messages are broadcast directly and up-close to random passersby.

Some graffiti artists point out that their artistic intervention aims to enliven the grey, dilapidated buildings of the capital and raise concerns about the critical situation plaguing Greece for the past few years. Clever murals pick up on the dire socio-political climate and give the people some raw food for thought; ironic slogans make people stop and stare; inspired artworks can even cause a hint of a smile on some troubled faces.

But this is only one side of the coin. Politically-orientated slogans, extremist party symbols, vulgar expressions against sports teams and racial slurs are also to be found among the urban art form. Many historical monuments and buildings in Athens have been defaced by black or red spray paint.

According to Reuters, the statue of Greece’s most revered military hero in central Athens, Theodoros Kolokotronis, has been given a new expletive-laden inscription.  Even the Academy of Athens has not escaped the rampant tagging or scribbles of modern times. In the Monastiraki Square and Psyrri it seems that there is no surface left without a tag. Several buildings of historic or architectural value around the city centre have been exposed to this new trend taking a lot away from their original beauty.

Street art has become over the years a celebrated form of expression, and Athens, as well as many other Greek cities, hold numerous examples of interesting and tasteful artworks that turn old walls into large canvases. In times like these, however, appalling art is reportedly a way of expressing one’s frustration and anger. Greece has been in turmoil for the past few years and tagging has rapidly spread from pavements onto monuments. Besides common vandals without any artistic or social purposes, some people have turned to sprays and slogans to release their suppressed rage against the state and the ongoing crisis.


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