Let me start off with a theory- the things we really accomplish, that we want to be remembered for, are not ever for money or status. These are both transitory and a means to an end. I honesty feel that the desired end result is always borne out of love. I also feel- to not be too crass about it- blessed to be an artist. I can create,and display, images several times a day to the people who are lucky enough to know where to look ;).
Still, is it justified when an graffiti artist, such as Olek of NYC, puts up a piece in the streets,and then complains when it is "stolen"?
This Tweet from @StreetStuff, about a missing piece of Olek's yarnbomb/public art (picture attached to this email), describes the situation a bit more.
Street Art @streetstuff Jan 13
Olek's stolen tribute to Nelson Mandela http://blog.vandalog.com/2014/01/oleks-tribute-to-nelson-mandela/ … via @vandalog pic.twitter.com/Luf4eYAVOb
In my eyes, Street Art's use of the word "stolen" becomes less about describing the situation accurately and transforms it into a symbol of cynicism. Simple love of art, and the public that appreciates it, becomes quashed under the weight of ownership. This tweet, and the story that it links to, seems to be meant solely as a commercialized tribute to Mandela, using the excuse of art being "stolen" to promote a piece that otherwise wouldn't get as much media attention. The viewing and hosting pleasure of the public it was displayed in takes a distant second place. This seems hypocritical in the extreme.
When an artist publicly shares art, and then claims exclusive ownership after the fact, that artist isn't being practical. Understand- once a piece of work goes out there, in a physical space for the public to consume at all hours, the concept of stealing becomes a moot point. In the above situation, we can see what happens when the public acts on this idea and takes what is already theirs.
OK, so let's just skip the complicated thought processes and come to this conclusion: if you really love something and the means that you use to share it with others, let it go free.
In all honesty, I do not practice street art, but just appreciate its massive effect on the art world around it. However, the increasing popularity of such public display, in the real and digital world, makes the concept of ownership and exclusive profit become less and less real in importance and possibility. I personally value inspiration over money and possessions- one is not an easily renewable or common quality, and the other one, unsurprisingly enough, is.