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Street art by John Hamon in Paris
"Painting in the Global Tradition" by Ces53, a Dutch street artist

Street art is any art developed in public spaces — that is, "in the streets" — though the term usually refers to unsanctioned art, as opposed to government sponsored initiatives. The term can include traditional graffiti artwork, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations. Typically, the term street art or the more specific post-graffiti is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art.

Artists have challenged art by situating it in non-art contexts. ‘Street’ artists do not aspire to change the definition of an artwork, but rather to question the existing environment with its own language. They attempt to have their work communicate with everyday people about socially relevant themes in ways that are informed by esthetic values without being imprisoned by them.[1] John Fekner defines street art as “all art on the street that’s not graffiti.”[2]

Owl, Mezer, Moss. Venice Beach, CA.

The motivations and objectives that drive street artists are as varied as the artists themselves. There is a strong current of activism and subversion in urban art. Street art can be a powerful platform for reaching the public, and frequent themes include adbusting, subvertising and other culture jamming, the abolishment of private property and reclaiming the streets. Other street artists simply see urban space as an untapped format for personal artwork, while others may appreciate the challenges and risks that are associated with installing illicit artwork in public places. However the universal theme in most, if not all street art, is that adapting visual artwork into a format which utilizes public space, allows artists who may otherwise feel disenfranchised, to reach a much broader audience than traditional artwork and galleries normally allow.



Whereas traditional graffiti artists have primarily used free-hand aerosol paints to produce their works,[3] "street art" encompasses many other media and techniques, including: LED art, mosaic tiling, murals, stencil art, sticker art, street installations, wheatpasting, woodblocking, video projection, and yarn bombing.

Traditional graffiti also has increasingly been adopted as a method for advertising; its trajectory has even in some cases led its artists to work on contract as graphic artists for corporations.[4] Nevertheless, street art is a label often adopted by artists who wish to keep their work unaffiliated and strongly political. Street artists are those whose work is still largely done without official approval in public areas.

For these reasons street art is sometimes considered "post-graffiti" and sometimes even "neo-graffiti."[5] Street art can be found around the world and street artists often travel to other countries foreign to them so they can spread their designs.

Street artists

Street artists such as Above, Jef Aérosol, Banksy, Mat Benote, BLU, Cartrain, Ces53, D*Face, Ellis Gallagher, Tod Hanson, Neck Face, Os Gemeos, Swoon, Twist, and 108, have earned international attention for their work and have shown their works in museums or galleries as well as on the street. It is also not uncommon for street artists to achieve commercial success (e.g., Ash, Shepard Fairey, Ron English, Faile, and WK Interact[6]), doing graphics for other companies or starting their own merchandising lines. Other pioneers of street art who have completely discontinued street art (e.g., Richard Hambleton and members of AVANT) have also successfully pursued their contemporary art careers in galleries and museums.

In 1981, Washington Project for the Arts held an exhibition entitled Street Art, which included John Fekner, Fab Five Freddy and Lee Quinones working directly on the streets.[7] Fekner, a pioneer in urban art, is included in Cedar Lewisohn’s book Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, which accompanied the 2008 Street Art exhibiton at the Tate Modern in England, of which Lewisohn was the curator.

The 1990 book Soho Walls – Beyond Graffiti by David Robinson[8] documents the paradigm shift in New York from the text-based precedents established by graffiti artists toward art in the streets such as the shadow figures by Richard Hambleton and the group of five young New York artists working collectively under the moniker AVANT.[9]

Key locations

While practically every large city in the world, and some of the larger regional towns, host some form of street art or graffiti, there are a few locations that are considered to harbour forerunners of particular mediums or foster a pioneering street art culture in general. Such locations often attract internationally known street artists who travel to these locations to exhibit their works. The following is a partial list of the most notable locations.

  • Berlin, Germany has attracted attention to international street artists since the reunification of the city, making it one of Europe's street art strongholds. Bizarre post-communist locations, cheap rents and ramshackle buildings gave rise to a vibrant street art scene. Hotspots include Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.
  • London, England has become one of the most pro-graffiti cities in the world. Although officially condemned and heavily enforced, street art has a huge following and in many ways is embraced by the public.
  • São Paulo, Brazil is generally viewed as one of the capitals of street art, and particularly murals. The lively and colourful atmosphere of the city is reflected in the street art scene, quickly evolving into one of the biggest and best in the world, drawing in many artists from around the world to collaborate.


  • The first ever street art festival was held in Melbourne in 2004.[citation needed]
  • The Nuart Festival, established in 2001 in Stavanger, Norway, is one of Europe's leading events dedicated to the promotion of international street art.


See also



  1. ^ Schwartzman, Allan, Street Art, The Dial Press, Doubleday & Co., New York, NY 1985 ISBN 0-385-19950-3
  2. ^ Lewisohn Cedar, Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, Tate Museum, London, England 2008 ISBN 978-1-85437-767-8
  3. ^ For the development of style in the aerosol paint medium, as well as an examination of the political, cultural, and social commentary of its artists, see the anthropological history of New York subway graffiti art, Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York, by Craig Castleman, a student of Margaret Mead, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1982.
  4. ^ As just one example of the potential overlap between the worlds of graffiti and advertising, note the Bronx-based group Tats Cru, whose members began as a subway graffiti crew, but whose work covered traditional neighborhood memorial walls, public schools, hospitals, representation at the Smithsonian Institution's 35th Folklife Festival, and included logo and advertising design for such corporations as Snapple and McDonald's. Some of their work can be found on their website, <>.
  5. ^ "Neo-graffiti" is a term coined by Tokion Magazine in the title of its Neo-Graffiti Project 2000, which featured "classic" subway graffiti artists working in new media; others have called this phenomenon "urban art." A discussion by the Wooster Collective on terminology can be found at <>.
  6. ^ WK Interact Book "2.5 - New York Street Life", Drago Publishing, 2009 (ISBN 9788888493442)
  7. ^ Lewisohn Cedar, Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, Tate Museum, London, England 2008 ISBN 978-1-85437-767-8
  8. ^ David Robinson, Soho Walls – Beyond Graffiti, Thames & Hudson, NY, 1990, ISBN 978-0500276020
  9. ^

Further reading

  • Bearman, Joshuah (October 1, 2008). "Street Cred: Why would Barack Obama invite a graffiti artist with a long rap sheet to launch a guerrilla marketing campaign on his behalf?". Modern Painters ( Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  • Le Bijoutier (2008), This Means Nothing, Powerhouse Books, ISBN 9781576874172
  • Bou, Louis (2006), NYC BCN: Street Art Revolution, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780061210044
  • Bou, Louis (2005), Street Art: Graffiti, stencils, stickers & logos‎, Instituto Monsa de ediciones, S.A., ISBN 9788496429116
  • Chaffee, Lyman (1993), Political Protest and Street Art: Popular Tools for Democratization in Hispanic Cultures, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0313288089 
  • Combs, Dave and Holly (2008), PEEL: The Art of the Sticker, Mark Batty Publisher, ISBN 0979554608
  • Fairey, Shepard (2008), Obey: E Pluribus Venom: The Art of Shepard Fairey, Gingko Press, ISBN 9781584232957
  • Fairey, Shepard (2009), Obey: Supply & Demand, The Art of Shepard Fairey, Gingko Press, ISBN 9781584233497
  • Gavin, Francesca (2007), Street Renegades: New Underground Art, Laurence King Publishers, ISBN 9781856695299
  • Goldstein, Jerry (2008), Athens Street Art, Athens: Athens News, ISBN 9789608920064
  • Hundertmark, Christian (2005), The Art Of Rebellion: The World Of Street Art, Gingko Press, ISBN 9781584231578
  • Hundertmark, Christian (2006), The Art Of Rebellion 2: World of Urban Art Activism, Gingko Press, ISBN 9783980990943
  • Jakob, Kai (2009), Street Art in Berlin, Jaron, ISBN 9783897735965
  • Lewisohn, Cedar (2008), Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, London, England: Tate Publishing, ISBN 9781854377678
  • Longhi, Samantha (2007), Stencil History X, Association C215, ISBN 9782952568227
  • Manco, Tristan (2002), Stencil Graffiti, Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0500283427
  • Manco, Tristan (2004), Street Logos, Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0500284695
  • Marziani, Gianluca (2009), Scala Mercalli: The Creative Earthquake of Italian Street Art, Drago Publishing, ISBN 9788888493428
  • Mathieson, Eleanor & A. Tàpies, Xavier (2009): Street Artists, The Complete Guide.Graffito Books, London. ISBN 978-09560284-1-9
  • Palmer, Rod (2008), Street Art Chile, Eight Books, ISBN 9780955432217
  • Schwartzman, Allan (1985), Street Art, The Dial Press, ISBN 9780385199506
  • Strike, Christian and Rose, Aaron (Aug 2005), Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture, Distributed Art Publishers, ISBN 1933045302
  • Walde, Claudia (2007), Sticker City: Paper Graffiti Art (Street Graphics / Street Art Series), Thames & Hudson, ISBN 9780500286685
  • Williams, Sarah Jaye, ed. (2008), Philosophy of Obey (Obey Giant): The Formative Years (1989 - 2008), Nerve Books UK.

Documentary films

  • RASH (2005), a feature length documentary film which explores the cultural value of Melbourne street art and graffiti
  • Bomb It (2008), a documentary film about graffiti and street art around the world
  • Rock Fresh (2004), a documentary film about the challenging world of the graffiti artist

External links

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