Street art is a form of visual art characterised by being found in nonconventional artistic spaces, its political and social content and the use of specific techniques and tools, for example spray paint or stencil templates. Since this type of art involves taking over public space, it has attracted a great number of opponents who view it as simple vandalism. Nevertheless, over time this contemporary artistic expression has been recognised by both critics and the media and been present in art galleries and auctions.
From the streets in the Bronx to the Tate Gallery: 40 years of street art
Street art originated in the graffiti found in the streets of Philadelphia, New York and other US cities in the 1960s. The movement exploded at the end of the 1970s with the arrival of hip-hop culture. From the 1980s, it could no longer be labelled as mere graffiti, since the techniques became more sophisticated, the use of templates more popular and the media and the critics began to recognise artists of the calibre of Basquiat, Haring and Futura.
In the 1990s, the debate on the artistic quality of street art intensified and some capital cities, including New York, Barcelona and Paris, declared war on “graffiti artists” by putting more surveillance measures in place, establishing harsher punishments and earmarking funds to remove the “paintings”.
The first decade of the 21st century saw a radical change in the perception of this type of art since it was incorporated into popular culture and added other means of expression, such as film screenings, installations and interventions in the street. The artists were no longer seen as criminals and festivals and public spaces were dedicated to street art around the world. Consolidated artists like Banksy have become internationally famous and sell their works for large sums. In 2008, the Tate Modern in London held an exhibition on this type of art, and in 2013, the Google Cultural Institute created the Street Art Project to collate and preserve the representations of this ephemeral art worldwide.
Five major street artists
The loaded social and political messages of the works by this Italian artist based in Bologna, known for the huge size of his unsigned murals and his humanoid figures, have resulted in some of them being removed. Blu has also experimented in the fields of short films and animation.
Banksy is the street artist that has become the most famous in popular culture, and his characteristic designs can be found on T-shirts, posters and decorative items around the planet. His irony-filled works have been exhibited in some of the most important museums worldwide and been sold for high prices at art auctions.
This renowned legendary Frenchman is a specialist in stencil graffiti techniques. A veteran of the streets, he produced his first mural in 1982. Since then, he has travelled the world creating in equal measure representative, iconic figures of culture and everyday, anonymous characters.
Antonio Laguna is a Spanish street artist that has become internationally famous as a result of his large-scale surrealist murals that lend a dreamlike air to the urban landscape.
The works by this American artist based in Berlin represent three of the most recognised street-art types: full-colour multi-layered stencil with an obvious political content, abstract compositions and large text murals.
What do you think about the fact that some of these artists are selling their works at international art auctions? Does this commercialisation disqualify them as street artists? Let us know what you think in the comments, and if you found this post interesting, please share it on social media. Thank you!
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