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Friday, June 1 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
28. (Architecture) Art or Awful: The Preservation and Conservation of Graffiti

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Graffiti is a drawing or inscription made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission, so as to be seen by the public. It’s done for many different reasons like self-expression, boredom, or disrespect. When does graffiti go from an act of vandalism to be immediately removed, to an artful expression which should be saved and shared? Graffiti has a long and proud history dating back to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. The oldest graffiti at Pompeii is a simple Gaius was here, or more precisely, “Gaius Pumidis Dilphilus was here” dated October 3, 78 B.C. It is a classic that stands the test of time, as anyone familiar with Kilroy knows. Graffiti comes in many different forms: from carving in stone, spray paint on a brick wall, marker on a marble statue, pencil on walls, etching on glass, to stickers on everything. Although graffiti has become an accepted art form, there is still a wide chasm between work exhibited in a museum and work done without the permission of the property owner. The National Park Service has two documents related to the removal of graffiti: Keeping it Clean and “Preservation Brief 38: Removing Graffiti from Masonry” both dating to 1995. But information and guidelines on the preservation of graffiti is scarce. Papers have been presented on the conservation of murals and graffiti-style street art, but what about graffiti that was created just as an act of defacement? What makes some graffiti worth saving while other requires swift removal? It is easy to be fascinated by graffiti left by a Rear Admiral of the British Navy on the Temple of Dendur in 1817, and less so by the spray-painted tag found on your garage. Is there really a difference between Keith Haring’s mural “Once Upon a Time” in the men’s bathroom of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and the penises that (for reasons unknown) boys love to draw on any vertical surface? Although many factors go into the decision to remove or preserve, some of the most important are age, context, and the artist. Graffiti exists in our public spaces, our communities, and our streets. It can be thoughtful, crude, political, humorous, simple, artistic, territorial, offensive, creative, or a combination of these. Can conservators work together to create guidelines and standards for the preservation and conservation of graffiti? Or is it like many issues of conservation where the answer is “It depends?” Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc. has worked on several graffiti-related projects including the preservation of pencil graffiti on wallpaper in a museum, protection and conservation treatments to a spray-painted graffiti mural in a previously industrial neighborhood, and the removal of offensive graffiti from the side of a church. This presentation will discuss how each of these projects required us to stop and think about the consequences of removal versus preservation.

avatar for Stephanie M. Hoagland

Stephanie M. Hoagland

Principal, Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc.
Stephanie M. Hoagland is a Principal and Architectural Conservator with Jablonski Building Conservation Inc. where she has been employed since 2003. She has a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:30pm - 4:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom (Foyer outside Ballrooms - Poster Session) Marriott Marquis Houston