Back in 2008, a group of teenagers were sent to jail in the UK in lieu of defacing public property. Yet while they were being imprisoned here, their work was being hailed in the New York gallery. There is only one word that can be used to describe how the UK as a society views graffiti street art – confusion.The confusion now runs deeper than the hide and seek between those who have a can and spray, and those that remove that paint off the wall.With news such as the imprisonment of the Graffiti artists, the common perception starts to develop that the state is against such street art and perceives it to be a crime. Yet, just a few blocks away from the Southwark Crown court that passed the judgment on the graffiti artists is a Major museum that displays large murals of six distinguished street artists.
It is interesting to note that most street artists consider London in the 21st century to be for street art what Paris was in the 20th Century to Impressionism. The journey of street art in London has been and continues to be turbulent. A large number of people show displeasure at the artists, and think of them as villains disfiguring the beauty of their city. However, a growing majority loves London’s very own modern street art.
London’s street art isn’t conventional or identical to street arts around the globe. Street art in London has its own style. The artists use elegance and punk to their advantage to create murals and artworks that can seem like high quality museum quality art products. With the passage of time though, the works of street artists have started to be given importance in different circles. Some of the work has even been placed in top quality museums.
Banksy is the man widely accredited for taking street art into museums. He started by sneaking his works into smaller museums. Ultimately, there came a time when his books were being sold in high quality stores and his works auctioned for hundreds of thousands of pounds. His works and antics were followed by a large group of imitators. He can be accredited with having influenced the current crop of up and coming street artists. His work showed them the potential success that can be achieved by a street artist despite the odds.
Let see the street art and its definition as crime in the world over. There are countries in the world where there is clear consensus against street art and then there are countries that are relaxed about it and think of such art as a sign of the liberty of their people. In Brazil for instance, the people are more relaxed about street art, with large works of street art dedicated to famous footballers unveiled during the recently concluded Football World Cup (Read our story about street art and the 2014 Brazilian World cup). In Australia, there is a large majority of people who look down upon street art and consider art works on walls as an infringement of their rights. However, there are many people there who appreciate street art.
Street art in the UK and the world over is a highly polarizing phenomenon. There are views like the ones that regard street art as painting on the streets and not attempts at hurting or injuring anyone. They think of street art as something to be appreciated and cherished rather than white washed and destroyed. And yet there are those people who view street art as an industrial level attempt to de-beautify and infringe on the individual’s property and his rights.
While Street art continues to divide opinions on its criminality or legality, it has turned out to be a marketing campaign for leading brands like Red Bull, Puma, and Adidas etc. All these brands have tried to cash in on the increasing popularity of graffiti and street art in the UK.
Street art has always divided opinions and it is highly unlikely any consensus will be reached soon. One thing, however, is sure – street art is starting to revolutionize the art industry in the world.
Whether the revolution is positive or negative is a matter of opinion.