Anonymous graffiti artists are transforming London’s electricity boxes sited around the city with paintings of local landmarks and even icons of English literature. The imagery is also meticulously detailed.
Justin Thomas, who took pictures of the graffiti, told the Daily Mail why:
“I started to notice more and more of these distinctive images cropping up – mainly on phone boxes and electrical boxes. They really stood out so I started taking pictures of them. They’re impressive looking and they really seem to brighten up the surroundings.”
Traditionally, marking up streets is viewed as vandalism. Nearly 20 years ago, graffiti was big in St. Petersburg, FL. Some 2,200 cases were reported. But since the city’s graffiti removal program (street art gets covered over in 48 hours), the streets remain unadorned. When a St. Pete graffiti artist was caught, he was slapped with a $15,000 fine.
But in the last decade graffiti has become all the rage in many places. In Cleveland, Ohio, it has mushroomed: on the commuter rail system, highway bridge abutments and abandoned buildings.
Moscow is a growing center of this urban art form. Artists flock there, even though the state discourages graffiti artists – a.k.a. street artists – and makes them paint over their work. Even so, there’s some recognition of the phenomenon because some walls are made available.
Unconcerned with sales, street artists have potential for greater impact on the public than gallery or museum art and such venues are catching on. The art form is rising up from the street straight into to exhibit halls.
Street art filled the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A., said to be the first major museum survey of the history of graffiti and street art in the U.S. Twenty five street artists participated.
You may also remember some years ago that New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art mounted a retrospective of the most infamous graffiti artist in subway lore, Keith Haring.
The Whitney exhibit traced Haring’s development from his chalk and felt-tip pen days depicting jostling figures art with their chaotic, cartoon-y quality, to his ornate field painting. His exhibit at the Whitney was just the beginning of connoisseurship for graffiti.
And street art has been drawing audiences ever since. Daily lines around the Grand Palais, a leading picture palace, reportedly stretched further than those for a Warhol exhibition next door. The attraction? A collection of graffiti paintings from street artists ranging from New York’s subway art of the ‘70s to contemporary urban art in Europe and South America.
How respectable has graffiti art become? The Grand Palais has put on display work by Nunca, the Brazilian street-artist famed for being invited to spray paint murals on the river facade of the Tate Modern, in London.
And in Manhattan, a couple of galleries – the Helenbeck and Gismondi – have offered a graffiti show along with 17th- and 18th-century furnishings. Pre-opening jitters centered on the worry that gallery goers in New York wouldn’t take to graffiti in galleries. But the stuff of subway scrawlers wowed the crowd and opening night drew hundreds that lined up around the block – in the rain, no less.
Then there was a show at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris with a retrospective of urban street art. Did you get that? A graffiti show at the Cartier foundation!
It looks like graffiti’s time has come, and given the way it brings life to a street, particularly a run-down one, cities ought to embrace it.