To understand informal dynamics within subculture movements the present research analyses the extent of Lisbon’s commodification of street art, a previously underground practice with a troubled relationship to its predecessor movement, graffiti. Answering whether the expected commodification has impacted the local communities of graffiti writers and street artists, and how artists navigate the borders between commissioned street art, illegal street art and graffiti, relate to their artist peers, adapt to new opportunities and how the tensions are constructed and managed was central to the analysis. The theoretical framework relies heavily on notions of urban policy shift, due to the growing importance of the creative city, on the theory of the commons, on the study of socially constructed symbolic boundaries, opposing notions of worth and ambivalence. A bifold qualitative approach was taken covering content analysis and in-depth interviews conducted with artists, entrepreneurs, and municipal enablers. The findings tell the story of a divided, matured, and commodified urban movement. With many outliers, the scene is scattered across a spectrum, from the ones balancing commission works and illegal practice to those that reject any form of institutionalisation. As expected, given the socially constructed nature of the definitions, there are as many definitions and boundaries as there are agents capable of defining them. This in turn translates into a cacophony of boundaries, divisions, and tensions. These dynamics are of course not particular to urban art and are, in fact, present in most art forms baffled with the opportunities that derive from commercialisation.

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Dr. Erwin Dekker
Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship , Master Arts, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

João Félix. (2021, June 30). Commodifying the underground. Manifestations and Dynamics of Graffiti and Street Art Communities Towards Institutionalisation in Lisbon.. Master Arts, Culture & Society. Retrieved from