Street art isn't a recent phenomenon, but its growing appreciation certainly is. Cities are slowly embracing this art movement that sees talented artists take to the streets to fill blank walls with awe-inspiring murals.
Sometimes commissioned, sometimes completed under the cover of darkness, this temporary art surprises and challenges as it continues to redefine the boundaries of art. From stencils and spray cans to wheatpaste and deconstruction, here are six top cities for checking out street art.
It’s no wonder London has produced the world’s most famous street artist, Banksy. The city’s streets have long been home to clever, colourful and thought provoking street art pieces. In recent years, with the Tate Modern showcasing works from prominent artists around the world, street art is quickly gaining a following.
While getting the opportunity to see one of Banksy’s signature works in person is definitely worth the time it takes to find them, don’t limit yourself in the search for quality pieces in London. Head to East End and keep your eyes peeled for the likes of Shepard Fairey (known for Obama’s iconic campaign poster), Vhils and Invader.
Like London, New York has long been a hotbed of street art with artists continually evolving to create impressive masterpieces for all to enjoy. These days, though, street artists are being commissioned to work their magic rather than sneaking through subway tunnels after dark. The entire city is a canvas for old schoolers and up-and-comers.
Among the key locations for those that want to see the best of the best is the Bowery Graffiti Wall. It’s history dates back to the 1980s and now showcases some incredible artwork by the likes of Lady Aiko and Os Gêmeos. The Bushwick Collective is another fantastic location for viewing some of the city’s best artworks with pieces by Swoon, Cost and Nychos.
Melbourne is known for being an epicentre for arts and culture, and with its many hidden laneways, it’s no wonder it has developed an art scene of the street variety. Many of these backstreets have been made over with colourful murals by known names on the street art scene. This includes the great Banksy himself.
Perhaps the most famous of Melbourne’s street art scenes is Hoiser Lane in the heart of the city. Union Lane between Little Collins and Bourke Street is another popular location for street artists. Mainly composed of commissioned works, it was part of the city’s Graffiti Mentoring Project in which young artist and their mentors created incredible works together. Yarra Place is another impressive location to view work by local artists.
Berlin’s street art history dates way back to the 1960s when the Soviet Union put up the Berlin wall. As a cultural and political sticking point, it drew artists expressing their views in the form of murals and graffiti. Though, even when the wall came down in 1989, the city’s alternative artists continued to express themselves across blank walls. It is now one of the most vibrant locations for street art enthusiasts with new works going up constantly.
Perhaps one of the city’s most famous works is the Cosmonaut of Kreuzberg. Painted by Victor Ash in 2007, it is said to be the world’s largest stencil drawing. Friedrichshain is another popular location for those in search of the city’s hidden gems, with prominent works by Blu. In the central city area, Mitte, specifically an alley off of Rosenthaler Straße, is also home to an impressive collection of works by Banksy, Jimmy C and El Bocho.
Buenos Aires has developed into a favourite location for street artists to make their mark. Not only does the local community appreciate the work that goes into these brilliant murals, but artists aren't limited by local authorities or required permits. The city is full of blank walls, begging to be transformed and all you need is consent from the property owner. The city also regularly hosts street art festivals, drawing international names.
Because Buenos Aires is such a haven for street artists, it's easy to simply walk the streets and see beautiful pieces all over the place. A few notable additions, though, include the large scale murals of Villa Urquiza, with pieces by artists such as Blu, Lean Frizzera and El Marian. The metro stations are another popular choice for artists with many public art projects completed in recent years.
Los Angeles has been home to street art pioneers for quite some time, but recent changes in local authority has seen the city jump aboard the street art train in a big way. The public ban on murals was lifted in late 2013, which has led to an influx of new and international talent taking to the streets to fill the city's blank walls with a refreshingly diverse set of murals.
Everyone from Banksy to Shepard Fairey have left their mark on this city with a mixture of small stencil pieces to larger, quality murals scattered across the different neighbourhoods. The LA Arts District and Fairfax are great viewing spots to see some of the bigger murals, while the LA River is popular among local artists. Artists have also been known to hit the numerous billboards around the city, so don't forget to look up in your quest to find LA's best art.