“The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art’s audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.” – Paul Gauguin
Street art is quite possibly the most important artistic development in the last 100 years. It has effectively made art something anyone can experience and, indeed, go out of their way not to experience it, bringing it out on the streets.
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Street art has its roots in graffiti, which was closely connected to hip-hop culture, starting in the 1960’s and becoming truly popular at the same time as hip-hop, in the 1980’s.
The 80’s also saw graffiti slowly shift from text-based works (the now infamous tags, for example) to “paintings” in public spaces, and also start being recognized in art circles as, indeed, an art form, thereby making street artist a legitimate career to be had.
One of the first groups of people to use graffiti in the 60’s were the political activists, and as such, street art has always been used as a form of protest, delivering messages in places people were not use to. It is this important tradition that we see carried out to this day in street art, by artists such as Banksy, who use their subversive art to challenge the system and make people think.
In this article, we will be showing you a few absolutely fantastic pieces of street art from around the world. We will be taking you to a few places you would not have expected to see street art, showing you some amazing artist, and some simply stunning unsigned works.
First off, we will be showing you a few examples of street art from established artists. We do not think that these works are better than the anonymous ones, nor that they are worse, but we do think that splitting the works into categories based on whether the artist is known or not illustrates the idea of “art for art’s sake”.
This work is done by Fintan Magee, in collaboration with Martin Ron Murales, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The message here, we think, is that we are contempt to live in our own little bubbles, where we think everything is as it should be, when in fact, all around us, there is war and destruction; a monochrome disaster that we hide our eyes from.
Here we have, as you’ve no doubt noticed, one of Banksy’s fantastic shadow figures, done in New York City. It could either be a dis to the tag “behind” the shadow figure, or it could be about the visceral nature of creating art and/or beauty. Banksy being as mysterious, as ever.
Blu is the artist responsible for this funny and disturbing piece from Bologna, Italy. If not for any other reason, you can still really appreciate the work that had to be put in to creating this scene, seeing that it is several stories tall, not to mention how wide it is.
What it means is, like with most works of art, open to interpretation. It could just as easily be a funny scene, an unflattering portrayal of religion or fanaticism, in general, or all of them all at once.
Cosmo Sarson was commissioned back in 2012 to paint this breakdancing Jesus on the wall beside The Canteen, in Bristol, England. Some of you might recognize Bristol as Banksy’s hometown, which just goes to show what a vibrant street art community the small English city has.
The work itself is inspired by an event at the Vatican from 2004, where a group of breakdancers performed for Pope John Paul II, and has been praised by the Catholic Church itself.
Now for another absolutely gargantuan work of art, this time from Poland, and done by Polish artist Natalia Rak. She is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, but we think that this absolutely superb piece of a little girl, dressed in traditional Polish clothing, watering the tree next to the building, serves as much better credentials than any academic successes.
Sticking to big works of art, just look at the size of this one! We would not be at all surprised if we were to find out that it holds, or has held, some Guinness World Record. Heindrik Beikirch is responsible for the amazing piece, located in Busan, South Korea, and it is not his only work of this type. He has a whole series of works that consist of faces on cityscapes.
Optical illusions is something we all can enjoy, and they do not get much better than this one from beautiful Paris, France. This is done by Swiss-born artist Felice Varini, who now lives in Paris and he specializes in such works.
We think you will be amazed to know that this surreal image comes from Teheran, the capital of Iran, which you undoubtedly know as a pretty conservative country. The size of it alone is mindblowing, but the fact that it is from Iran makes it an even more applaudable artistic feat. The artist responsible for it is Mehdi Ghandyanloo, who also lives in Teheran.
As we have said at the beginning of the article, street art is a potent way of delivering a social or political message, and this is a great example of it. This not-so-subtle work is done by Spanish street artist Pejak, and it is done in Santander, Spain.
We do not think there is any real need to point out what the message here is, so we will just let you enjoy it for a while, before moving on the next image.
Italian artist NemO’s does many such surreal works. Whether they are on walls or paper, he does marvelous illustrations of characters performing fairytale-like actions, with the purpose of transmitting a message.
In this piece from Milan, Italy it could be he is going for an ecological message, or maybe even a social one, about our irrational need to own as many houses as we can, regardless of the repercussions.
Now it is time to show you a few images done by people that are not only not seeking fame, but are actually avoiding it. These are works by people who do it out of sheer passion and nothing else.
Greece has been going through some tough time these past few years. The recession really hit the country hard, and street art is an excellent gauge to see how this has impacted the people.
This stunning work is from Athens, and although to some it might be tasteless to compare you struggle to that of starving children in Africa, the point here is seeing just what the recessions has done to a once booming country.
Spain is another country that really drew the short stick when the recession came. Although it wasn’t hit quite as hard as Greece, Spanish citizens definitely weren’t unscathed by the experience, and this powerful images serves as a testament to that.
Columbia is exotic, at least as far as the Western definition of the word goes. Without adhering to media stereotypes, Columbia has its own specific culture forged from its history and its struggles, and this superb work is an excellent example of that.
Poland has a very vibrant street art scene, with artists like Sainer, Bezt and Natalia Rak, which you have seen in the previous category, making fantastic murals on buildings and walls. The scene is also kept alive by illustrious unknowns that make fantastic works like the one presented here, that has more than a little bit of Iron Curtain in it.
More from Paris, and we are frankly amazed at how realistic this work is, and at the fact that whoever done it, didn’t claim it.
Princess Diana seems to be a wound that just won’t heal in the hearts of the British people. This mural seems to be a satire of this feeling, making Princess Diana a time traveler, at least that’s how it looks to us Doctor Who fans.
We think this might also be an entry from Greece, seeing as the symbolism is Orthodox in nature, and that the bag of Euros kinda of makes us think of the Greek debt.
We go all the way to Philadelphia, now, to see this rather Parisian looking mural. It looks like a classic painting, only transposed on the side of a house. Here we can also see how the location of a piece is vital to the way it looks and, more importantly, feels.
Now we go back to Europe, namely in Bucharest, Romania. This is a very creepy mural, done on a secluded wall in Bucharest’s largest park, Herăstrău Park.
And so that we’ll end on a happy note, here’s some brightly-colored clowns, balloons, planes and bugs from Rijswijk in The Netherlands.
We hope you enjoyed the lovely works we’ve shown you in this article, and that they helped you get some design inspiration. Don’t forget to tell us your thoughts, in the comment section below.