Of all spurious forms of contemporary art, perhaps the most ostentatiously disagreeable is so-called “graffiti art.” What it represents is the elevation of a public nuisance into a protected and adulated form of creative endeavor. Because it has its origin in an activity that involves a contempt for private property, its rebirth as art—a specially venerated species of property—involves all manner of contradictions, not to say hypocritical evasions, on the part of those who practice and those who hawk and display the stuff. In the Spring issue of City Journal, Heather Mac Donald, taking off from an exhibition of such “street art” at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, provides a long and patient demolition of this form of urban squalor masquerading as art.

What’s particularly irritating about graffiti art is the way it enshrines something that is both hideous to look at