At first glance, this corner on Allen and Division Streets in Chinatown looks like many others in the area, but it’s part of a legal graffiti installation by Smart Crew that completely blurs the traditional notions of “vandalism” and “art.”

Sure, the SABIO fire extinguisher tag, and the CASH4, STU, and CHE tags above are illegal (as well as what was written on the dumpster), but everything directly below it — from the Chinatown mural to the wheat-pasted Smart Crew signage and faux-bodega facade painted by SNOEMAN — was done with permission, even the graffitied roll-down gates.


For most passers-by, this installation is indistinguishable from vandalism, but for aficionados and fans, each one of the names on the metal shutters is recognizable and has significance. The curated tags are from real graffiti writers, some of whom are still very, very active. Tags by REMO, SP, JOZ, EASY, MEY, CINIK, SEV, GIZ, 17, CHINO, VEEFER, and TRAP are completely legal here.

This is pretty conceptual for street art. Functioning in a sort of reverse-Dadaism, it’s an artwork masquerading as a found object. It lives in a tense space — a legal artwork created with the participation of notorious vandals that looks illegal in every way, but in actuality, was done in full compliance with the law. As ANIMAL previously reported, it took years for Smart Crew to get permission to paint this wall and as DCEVE noted, it all came together with the help of “a Community Affairs officer from the 5th Precinct.”

In some municipalities, the city would send people to buff this and bill the owner. Clearly an artwork, this would likely not satisfy the city’s subjective codes, making for a trolly triumph over the graffiti-hating authorities. (Photos: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)