When we view urban art, it’s totally as a matter of taste. When thinking of urban art we aren’t talking of random graffiti, but of well crafted pieces that transform a wall or a space. Urban art pretty much used to be restricted to statuary and commissioned pieces such as fountains. It has taken a long, long time for the world to see urban art as a genuine form of art. Graffiti has become an acceptable medium, and we see urban art now that includes anything that can be termed as, well, Art, just in a street setting. Here are 7 Best Places to See Urban Art:
Top of the list of places for urban art has to be New York. It’s probably the spiritual home of urban art and nowhere else on earth has such a close association with graffiti. What started as spray paint designs on walls, subways and even subway trains back in the 60s has developed to some highly sophisticated pieces all around the city today. Proponents such as Shepard Fairey, Neck Face and notorious Brit, Banksy, are adorning New York’s urban landscape with fabulous giant stencils, portraits and drawings. Check out graffiti Mecca in Long Island City, murals by Tats Cru in the Bronx, pictures by Poster Boy in subway stations and just about anywhere in Lower East Side and Chelsea.
I’m sure you’re surprised to see the Iranian capital listed as one of the best places to see urban art. Street artists contribute to the city’s look despite the heavy penalties they face if caught. Among the major contributors are A1one, widely considered the founder of Tehran street art who enjoys political parodies, Omgh who crafts figures of people from wire and positions them around the city, and R4sh whose specialty is stencils of growing plants on concrete walls.
When you see street art, you are also meant to see the message. Of course, the message varies city to city, and artist to artist. In Cape Town, the over-riding emphasis is on inspiration, edification and empowerment. Many of the street murals in this very varied and vibrant city feature role models such as Nelson Mandela, scenes from apartheid and images of refugees. Art is an important factor in rejuvenating South Africa, and cultural organizations like as the Human Rights Media Center commission works from Mark1One, Faith47, Kronk and Sindiso Nyoni among others to add color to places such as the City Bowl.
You might not imagine that uber-chic, sophisticated Paris, the epitome of style, would be one of the top places to view urban art, but whilst being at the cutting edge of fashion, the French capital also keeps up with any ‘happening’ movement. Paris has a large immigrant population and they play their part in painting the city, particularly in the 19th and 20th Arrondissements – Rue Ordener is interesting. Elsewhere, look out for Invader’s Rubik’s Cubes, Jerome Gulon’s bright mosaics, hypersexual females by Fafi, and JR’s giant images of people.
Sao Paulo is the biggest city in South America and as you might imagine, its urban art is larger than life and displays all those attributes we think about as being Brazilian – bright, vibrant, and full of color and soul. One of the best places to see street art in Sao Paulo is a street in Vila Madalena – literally every inch of Batman’s Alley (Beco de Batman) is covered in a riot of color. Collaborative murals are popular, bringing together artists such as Os Gemeos, Nunca and Vlok. Other local favorites are Zezao, Barbara Goy and the cartoony teddy bears in death throes of Urso Morto.
Bristol born Banksy may have put it on the map, but London has a long tradition of street art. Back in the 80s, King Robbo was already adding his flair to the streets and walls of the UK Capital. Whilst Banksy is now off living up to his fame, other artists have come to the fore. Some of the best street art in London is created by Ben Slow, Slinkachu and Adam Neate. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you may even pick up a Ben Slow original as he leaves his creations on cardboard around the city for anyone to pick up and take home.
Australia’s second city is the cultural hub of the nation. Many important Aussie movements in music, drama, movies, and the fashion have their roots in the streets of Melbourne. It may have caught on to street art later than other major urban centers around the world, but when it did, it certainly embraced it with gusto - the city now hosts an annual stencil festival. Hosier Lane is definitely the premier destination to view street art in Melbourne, but other great displays can be found in Brunswick, Fitzroy and Northcote. Major local artists include Vexta, Ha Ha and Miso.
Murals and wall posters and stencils are not limited to the world’s major cities and you can probably find and see street art in more places than you would imagine. I’ve focused on ‘graffiti’ for this selection but don’t forget, there are other urban art installations that are just as worthy of our attention.
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