Semester of Graduation

Fall 2018


Master of Arts (MA)


School of Art

Document Type



An examination of three case studies involving U.S. museum exhibitions of street and graffiti art in the twenty-first century. This thesis covers the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s “Graffiti” show in 2006, Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Art in the Streets” in 2011, and the 2012-2015 activities of the Baton Rouge Museum of Public Art. These events offer a chronological and geographical range to provide a broad scope of investigation into the pitfalls and opportunities of museum’s exhibiting graffiti and street art. The heart of this research is not to prolong the debate about whether museums endanger their authority when they show street artists or whether street artists lose their edge by engaging with institutions, but rather, to accept their long-standing relationship as a fact and historicize the challenges that have faced these parties over many years. In each instance covered here, the museum’s objective was to harness and convey the energy and value of street art to new audience. Each museum setting sought to demonstrate the communicative power of graffiti and other forms of transgressive urban art. At some cost to the institution, their efforts had significant, positive consequences on the art form, whether in the art market or in the public domain. The catalog of the obstacles which faced these organizations, as laid out in this research, will enable museums to mitigate those costs in the future and contribute to a road map which museums can use to better navigate the parallel paths of subversion and compromise they themselves accept when supporting controversial art.



Committee Chair

Darius Spieth