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I have been trying to figure out what is a mural or what is street art and the difference between the two (if there is one). What is the difference between the two?

What would be such kind of art be labelled ? Graffiti, street art or something else?


A mural is visual art that is applied directly to a wall. (While most art ends up hanging on a wall, a mural is integral to the wall and can't be, say, moved to a different wall.) Typically it involves paint, but can also be mixed media (e.g., a mosaic). It can be inside or outside.

Street art refers to a work of art that is in a public place, often executed without official permission. It may or may not have a political message associated with it (the work in your Question, for example, conveys a message).

A painting on a wall can be both mural and street art! But a mural might not be street art (if the artist is paid by the city), and street art might not be a mural (it could be on a sidewalk, it could be a sculpture, etc.).

The unsanctioned nature of street art means there is some overlap with graffiti, which is drawing or painting or engraving that is done without permission. A bored teenager who tags my mailbox is performing vandalism, not art. Depending on aesthetic or political preference, some street art may be designated graffiti by some viewers.

  • 1
    In addition, in my mind at least, a mural covers the entire wall it's on, or at least a large rectangular portion thereof. So the example in the question would not qualify as a mural unless the artist added a background around the flag.
    – Martha
    Jan 2 '17 at 15:59
  • Or, grafitti be designated street art ;)
    – user24
    Jan 3 '17 at 5:14
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    Fwiw, street art is sometimes sanctioned. For example, the City of Toronto has a program called StreetARToronto, which matchmakes private property owners (and city departments) with commissioned street artists. In Toronto, street art can definitely be sanctioned.
    – patcon
    Dec 14 '20 at 6:26

Generally a mural is any art which is applied directly to a wall, often a painting or drawing although the term can also be applied to sculptural reliefs.

Street art is a bit more general and is usually used for art which takes place in public spaces. As well as semi-permanent media like murals this can also apply to performances or temporary media like pavement drawing. The term can also be applied to things like portrait drawing which take place on the street although in this sort of context the term 'street artist' might be more appropriate than street art.

Historically graffiti generally implies casual drawing of painting on public or private structures often without permission. However it is also associated with a set of painting styles using aerosol cans, often on quite a large scale. As with all definitions of art what is and is not intended as 'art' is debatable and mutable.

In many western cultures street art has associations with urban subcultures and political protest although again, it is becoming increasingly mainstream and there are a few examples, notably Banksy where it it pretty much part of teh mainstream elite art market...although again what this actually means is a whole other debate in itself.

The actual style and medium can vary a lot. From the context of the question it seems like you are thinking mostly about images painted on walls etc but most cultural forms, dance, poetry, music, theatre ect have some 'street' version which may be either more of less 'underground' or be part of more mainstream cultural as seasonal or festival events.

Consider also Yarn Bombing and Guerrilla Gardening

There is also some overlap with public art (typically large scale sculpture) although street art implies something less formal and less permanent. Similarly 'street' tends to imply a more urban setting.

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