When you hear the term street art, you probably associate it with names like Banksy, Mr. Brainwash or Jef Aérosol, responsible for the great mural Chuuuttt! in Paris’ Beaubourg district. But street art can be found in all major and smaller cities. Often in the most hidden and surprising locations. This artistic form of art is for everyone; it is literally in the public space! It attracts the attention of the unsuspecting public wandering through the streets, makes people stop for a moment, encourages them to think and brings the street scene to life. Urban street art is a proactive part of our society.
What consciously or unconsciously shocked the artistic establishment in the 1980s is today considered one of the most popular and investment-worthy art forms of the moment. Street art is often of extremely high quality while prices are still relatively low. Two lures for art-loving collectors.
What is street art?
Street art, like graffiti art, is a sub-genre of urban art. Freely translated, urban art stands for art that is (legally or illegally) part of the urban landscape. With graffiti, the alias, the signature of the artist is central; the work is focused on the artist’s. With street art it is really about the image, the message that the artist wants to proclaim. He or she really wants to create something with the work in the public space.
Of course, there is overlap. For example, the Brazilian (Rodrigio) Izolag was for many years part of a group of roaming street artists who left behind impressive graffiti art everywhere. Izolag knows how to depict catchy snapshots powerfully and aptly and develops a unique technique. Meanwhile, he paints socially critical subjects, striking situations and characteristic people on canvas and then reworks it with leather, newspapers and letters, among other things. Everything he considers necessary to give his street art paintings the right dimension to provoke and endear. Complex, magnified and highlighted. His virtuosity is quickly recognized in the European art scene. This results in collaborations with renowned galleries in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
A sense of humor and irony
Many street artists like Izolag find their inspiration in the international pop art movement, which emerged in the 1950s. In many ways – using printed media, film, photographs, screen prints and spray cans – these artists set themselves against the elite. They want to make pop art: popular art. Art, with a touch of humor and irony, that is accessible and understandable for everyone.
Pop Art by Mr Crownnnnn
In the decades that followed, teenagers – starting in New York City – left their tags (name and street number) on trains. Gradually, these signatures grow into small works of art created at a rapid pace with spray cans. Graffiti is born and fits perfectly into the new international subculture (hip-hop). The inspiration is mainly found within the collective of shared ideas and the urban lifestyle.
Urban art is thriving. In the 1970s, often young creatives use tickers, stencils and labels to share phrases and impressions with the general public. The street is their canvas. And just as in the first instance of pop art, critics pulverize this – in their view – vandalism. Yet traditional graffiti motifs are often “borrowed” by the advertising world and artists regularly get work as graphic designers. A cross-pollination occurs.
The first iconic street art artist
American Keith Haring is the first (respected) artist to achieve fame with his chalk drawings on the empty billboards in the New York subway. He shares his feelings about themes such as war, apartheid, drugs, sexuality, death and AIDS (the disease from which he himself died in 1990). In 1982, he completes his first iconic mural on the exterior wall of Houston Bowery. Two years later he travels to Australia to create – on commission – murals in Melbourne and Sydney. Not much later, his street art can also be admired in Amsterdam, Paris and Pisa, among others, while his drawings, sculptures and paintings are exhibited worldwide.
Keith Haring at the Berlin Wall
Street art is distinguished by the authenticity of each work, each of which tells a story. This can be a protest against the consumer culture, a political message, a persiflage or a personal report. The street is both studio and exhibition space and the unsuspecting public the critic.
Street art on the streets and in museums
When an artist is active on the streets and at the same time – helped by great media exposure or not – gets picked up by museums and galleries, it is and remains street art. Only with the transition to the mainstream art world the official term changes to urban art.
For example, the Brit Banksy and the French-born Mr. Brainwash are currently two international contemporary urban art superstars. Banksy’s work is characterized by his catchy and humorous images combined with political slogans. With his statements, in which he combines graffiti with his typical stencil technique, he holds up a mirror to the public. His street art can be found both outdoors and in museums in various European and American cities.
Mr. Brainwash is extremely skilled at virtually appropriating popular logos and images, placing them in a totally different context and enriching them with colorful graffiti. Although this also attracts negative attention, the artist defends his working method by stating that art knows no rules.
Blu is the pseudonym of an Italian artist who also creates urban street art all over the world. Facades of tall buildings serve as the canvas for his mega-sized murals. He cherishes his artistic freedom. When his popularity reaches a climax in 2016, he destroys every piece of art he has created in Bologna. This is to prevent his work from being sold by profit-seeking art dealers.
Belgian street artist Roa also says he wants to keep his work and mind free. He creates large works on all continents, regularly participates in street art festivals and collaborates with international galleries from time to time. Furthermore, he wishes to remain anonymous. His work speaks for itself, he thinks. His murals, built up of different layers, offer the spectators different perspectives on the animals that he depicts with highly detailed fur or feathering.
Ludo – BTC Flower – Paris
From Street to Screen ptints
They are and always will be a quirky group of artists and – let’s face it – the mystery surrounding street art artists adds to their charm. In the eyes of fans, this makes them authentic, idealistic and independent. Yet some of the original street artists, such as Keith Haring, Jean- Michel Basquiat and Banksy, are now known more for their regular art, their street art paintings, screen prints and photographs, than for their original street art. They are established names in contemporary urban art.
These types of artists often distribute the work in limited editions through a number of channels. So the real challenge is often in being able to get hold of a work. And, as with any other investment, it is essential to research what makes the artist unique and what the scope of their work is.