Susie Rushton: One person's art is another's vandalism

Urban Notebook

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By the perimeter fence of the Olympic Park in Stratford, next to the canal, is a picture of a baby playing with building bricks. On the bricks read the words 'Kill people'. Stencilled on to a cement wall, it has been chiselled away on one side.

The law would call the image vandalism. To the thieves who tried to steal it – one of the first works attributed to Banksy – it's art. But for every subversive trompe l'oeil that could hang in a gallery (and often does; Banksy's second full-scale exhibition opened in Bristol Museum last week) there is an entire metro- polis of tags, scribbles, moronic slogans and swastikas that are less easy to appreciate.

Graffiti has become a word that is difficult to use meaningfully. Six young Australian men were jailed this week for what was described as a "spree" of graffiti that targeted Tube and overground trains in London. I can imagine what it looked like, as a body of work: dumb, funny, repetitive, cute, derivative, creative, ugly.

This gang of young Aussies, calling themselves AMF, an acronym that fans of 90s pop act EMF won't struggle to decode, used the tags "quack", "puse" and "kelts". (Maybe you have to be Australian.) In summing up, the judge's comments revealed a surprising ambivalence, widely shared, towards graffiti in the post-Banksy age. He called the six "talented artists, in terms of graffiti artists," adding that it was "appalling" that they were in the dock. Presumably his honour would prefer to see them in the Tate Modern. It could still happen.

Can dreams come this cheap?

Mulberry isn't a brand you'd expect to do well in a slump. Expensive "must-have" handbags were the boomtime baubles that created enough credit-card debt to sink a national bank. And yet Mulberry is reporting healthy sales, driven by foreign tourists shopping in London.

At the other end of the scale, H&M have done a deal with Jimmy Choo, makers of the spiky-heeled slithers of dainty leather preferred by WAGs. The originals cost £700; H&M Choos will start at £30. A sell-out is guaranteed.

Desire for "aspirational" designer goods has not melted away in the recession. Still, label-lovers want value. Bernard Arnault, who as chief of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) owns a walk-in wardrobe of luxury fashion brands, says that if he sells plenty of relatively low-priced items now (perfumes, for instance), appetite for the thousand-pound cocktail dresses will return tomorrow. "We don't buy our dreams at the supermarket," purred Arnault, who's clearly never been down the bakery aisle at Waitrose.

Personally, I'd never buy a pair of Jimmy Choo sandals, however cheap. It was meeting Tamara Mellon, years ago, that did it. "So, you work at Jimmy Choo?" I'd enquired, gauchely trying to make conversation during a fashion shoot where I was an assistant. Mollifying the subjects was part of my job.

"I OWN the company, actually," she sneered, in a style to which I can definitely say I have never aspired.

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