My friend and neighbour Richard from Essential Travel, took a picture of a fairly rare sight on the District Line. Yesterday a graffiti'ed Tube pulled into Kew Gardens and it certainly took both him and me back to those 1970's images of New York subway trains where graffiti was part of the paintwork.
He thought that the London Underground had some rule that a train wasn't allowed to go in service, if it had been hit by graffiti. I'm not so sure. Admittedly I don't see a lot of trains around with graffiti on them, or perhaps it depends on the level of graffiti, before a train's taken out of service.
When I was in New York last Autumn, I visited the New York Transit Museum and they were so anti graffiti (or perhaps so proud of the crack down on it) that they wouldn't show any carriages with graffiti, even from a historical perspective.
The closest they got was this iconic image of John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever sprawled in a subway carriage.
All the subway shots were filmed inside the museum and one of the guides remembered chatting to Travolta when he came in.
People still have very strong opinions about graffiti on trains (and graffiti in general). It's regarded as street art in some circles. People like Banksy have certainly popularised the idea that urban art is not only that (ie artistic) but that it's also worth a pile of money. I know a number of people who thought that the Tube Carriage offices in the sky were just an art installation and not real offices.
Perhaps there ought to be some places where graffiti artists can spray away to their heart's content. Maybe they'd be less inclined to climb onto lines overnight and spray trains.
Having this discussion before, Jon Justice found a video of some reverse graffiti, where a guy used dirty real life canvasses and left clean images on them. It's like a more artistic way of writing "clean me" on a dirty white van.