The Quick 10: 10 Famous Pieces of Graffiti

filed under: q10
Image credit: 

Graffiti has come a long way over the years. Largely thanks to artists like Banksy and Blek le Rat, some graffiti is now recognized as the clever art form it really is. In fact, some Banksy pieces have even been taken from their original locations and installed in museums like the Tate Modern. Check out these 10 messages that have scribbled their way into pop culture.

1. You know "Surrender Dorothy" as the skywritten message in The Wizard of Oz, of course, but it has also become a famous piece of graffiti in the D.C. area. Someone with a sharp eye and a good sense of humor thought the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kensington, Maryland, looked quite like something out of Oz. To make sure everyone else noticed the resemblance as well, an anonymous artist scrawled "Surrender Dorothy" on a railroad bridge approaching the building. It first appeared in 1973 and the original is long gone, but homages pop up every now and then.

2. "Kilroy was here" is arguably the most famous piece of graffiti ever. It's certainly made the rounds, that's for sure. There are several stories as to how the little doodle originated, so your guess is probably as good as anyone else's. Many claim the little guy was a WWII tag, but at least one documentary shows a "Kilroy was here" tag from Fort Knox dated 1937. He's often used to poke fun at dictators, whether the stories are true or not: Hitler allegedly was concerned that Kilroy was a super-spy of some sort; Stalin supposedly asked who this Kilroy person was after seeing his name in a VIP bathroom. Hmm. Kilroy may have been real - the New York Times once said they found him and his name was actually J.J Kilroy. The Lowell Sun claimed his named was Frances J. Kilroy, Jr. The Oxford English Dictionary simply calls him a mythical person.

3. "Foo was here" is the Australian answer to Kilroy was here. Or rather, Kilroy was the answer to Foo.

Most sources show that Foo predated Kilroy by at least 20 years. Foo's origins are also unknown, but one story is that Foo was a guy who had the fun job of inspecting welds of submarines during WWI. To show his bosses that he was, in fact, getting his work done, Foo left a little signature everywhere he went. Interestingly enough, this is the exact story the Times reported when they said they found James J. Kilroy.

4. In the last of the "Kilroy" genre we have Mr. Chad, the British version. Mr. Chad was usually accompanied by a clever saying that always started with "Wot, no"¦" For example, in response to the WWII rationing, Mr. Chad often inquired, "Wot, no sugar?" He was spied on the walls of Parliament after the 1945 election, gloating, "Wot, no Tories?" And in 1946, Chad was marked on trains going through Austria with a gleeful, "Wot, no Fuehrer?"

5. "Clapton is God" was famous graffiti all over London in the '60s. Even more famous is the picture taken of a Clapton graffito at just the right (or wrong) time...

6. Here's one for you LOTR fans. "Frodo Lives" was a popular phrase during the '60s and '70s and wouldn't have been out of place on a button at Woodstock or scrawled on a wall in San Francisco. It was revived a bit when the movies came out, but it was not the craze it was back in the day. But never fear - if you want to get in on it, you still can. There's a Facebook group for Frodo Lives!

7. You can probably guess the time period of the famous graffito "Dick Nixon Before He Dicks You." The clever slang saw a small resurgence (with a slight tweak) during the Bush/Cheney administration.

8. "Repent Sinner." You know, in case you needed to be reminded. "Repent sinner" has been gracing walls, buses and billboards everywhere in Western Canada, specifically Edmonton, for about 20 years now. The trend has apparently migrated to Vancouver as well. Not everyone takes the graffiti artist as seriously as she takes herself though (it's speculated that the artist is a woman) - variations including "Reheat Dinner," "Resume Sinning," and "Recent Sinner" have all cropped up in the form of graffiti, stickers and even T-Shirts.

9. "Eternity" is a simple and beloved graffito tag hailing from Australia. I know, a beloved piece of graffiti? But it's true. The poignant word was written in chalk all over the streets of Sydney from the '40s through the '60s. The man responsible for it, a former criminal, remained anonymous for many years. His identity was revealed just a few years before he died in 1967. But his death didn't mean the death of the "Eternity" campaign - others picked up the slogan, including the city of Sydney, which illuminated the word on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the 2000 New Year's Eve celebrations. They did it again during the 2000 Olympics. And there's an aluminum piece of artwork at Town Hall Square in Sydney that commemorates the movement.


10. And then there's Banksy, the anonymous British graffiti artist. He is quite prolific, so it's hard to choose just one of his pieces. I'm rather fond of the Pulp Fiction guys, myself. There are plenty more to choose from if Travolta isn't quite up your alley.

Are there any famous graffiti pieces where you live?

twitterbanner.jpg

shirts-555.jpg

tshirtsubad_static-11.jpg

More from mental_floss...

July 20, 2010 - 11:30am
submit to reddit