What if Zacharevic’s parents had been Malaysian?

Almost every report about Ernest Zacharevic I've read has only focussed on the “robber” (because it’s a wonderful bit of confirmation bias to support some fist shaking at the authorities) with little mention of the “Chanel girl” who rather embarrassingly symbolises the ugly capitalistic, consumerist Malaysian – how about a boo for them too? But that's not all, they've also “glibbed” over Zacharevic's full credentials as an artist.

In fact, Zacharevic graduated in 2009 with 1st class honours in Fine Art from Middlesex University. His art education began in 1993 in Lithuania at the National School of fine arts. Imagine if his parents had been Malaysians – yup, that probably would not have happened. Go study something practical they would have said. Don't waste your time they would have said. He “wasted” 16 years of his life pursuing the study of art.

But now the time-waster is a hero. Well, show your support in the way people traditionally support artists – go buy his work. He says: "I am focusing all my attention on this exhibition, which will feature my work in different media. People associate me with my murals but my experience in art goes beyond that." This is how you respect “art”. You pay for it. You tell the artist that his work has value.

Zacharevic himself has publicly stated he has no problem with the authorities taking down his grafitti, it’s the very nature of graffiti art to be ephemeral. Artists like Zacharevic know full well that their graffiti work is to create “buzz” that translates into real sales in a gallery or other forms of income. After all, this is how he earns a living. He's not paying his rent or buying his favourite curry mee with your goodwill.

Wanna respect Zacharevic? – buy his work. Wanna respect “art”? – let your children and grandchildren follow their dreams of becoming artists or getting an education in art or film or design. Art school doesn't just create artists, it also creates curators for exhibitions, demand for art teachers, businesses to support a creative community and fuels demand that is taste driven. Without this what we have is what Zacharevic painted, cities full of crass Chanel girls and boys taking selfies of themselves showing off their money.

Art isn't defined by a piece of graffiti in an alley, it’s a flourishing ecosystem of museums, galleries, art schools, curated exhibitions, private views, collectors and so on.

Invest a little more respect, energy and money into that, instead of Shopping Malls, Rolex watches, fancy cars and designer handbags, and we might produce Ernest Zacharevic's of our own who also have the power, as you have witnessed, to influence public discourse on politics and broader issues.