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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?

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 3
    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
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 15:59
  • Or, grafitti be designated street art ;)
    – user24
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 5:14
  • 2
    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
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 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 or 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 is pretty much part of the 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, etc., have some 'street' version which may be either more or 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.


I agree with Medium's definition : Street art encompasses various artistic interventions in public spaces, often thought-provoking and accessible. Murals are large-scale commissioned artworks, transforming spaces with narratives and cultural symbols.

Street art is a genre. Murals is a type of street artwork.

For instance, Keith Haring did plenty of artwork on canvas, that's not a mural yet it is street art.

Whereas a mural is not necessarily streetart.

Hope this helps :)

  • If you are agreeing with and expanding on another answer you should do so as a comment not post an answer restating the earlier one. And you offer contradictory opinions on murals being street art.
    – rebusB
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 18:55
  • Also, a K.Haring painting on canvas is not considered street art. Just because he did street art does not mean everything he made can be considered as such.
    – rebusB
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 16:41

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