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The History of Street Art – Part 2

Graffiti grew in a number of different ways: some artists chose to continue with spray paint to grace their cities with murals, while others moved oil to stencils in order to create more elaborate works like landscapes and portraits.

Graffiti around the world

Graffiti around the world

Street art also started to appear globally. Blek le Rat pioneered stencil art in the 80’s in Paris. His rat stencils pointed to Paris’ state power and its controlling nature. It also demonstrated how to take art away from the conventional gallery environment. Thanks to his ready-made stencils, he would work faster and escape arrest. Many people know street art in Britain through one artist, in particular: Banksy. Banksy, whose true identity remains a secret, was influenced by le Rat to create politically influenced installation pieces and stencils. Banksy started to create his pieces in 90’s Bristol but now visits different countries around the globe in order to locate new inspiration for his works. There’s even been a documentary made about him called Exit Through the Gift Shop, and there are numerous made-for-sale works available on the secondary market. The more famous he becomes, the faster his installations disappear. Building owners who have been given the Banksy treatment either persevere his works for sale or destroy them. However, the majority of street artists only allow their work to be sold if they created the work for that reason alone.

Street art in the present

Graffiti techniques and street art continually evolve. Artists such as Vhils, who reveals optical portraits through the removal of layers, and KAWS, who designs clothing and toys, are just two examples of modern street artists becoming more popular today. Many of today’s artists have achieved commercial success, such as France artist Invader and U.S. artist Shephard Fairey. Fairey first made his name globally in the 2008 U.S. presidential election with his iconic poster featuring Barack Obama. The poster was simply entitled “Hope”. His art is now on display in Smithsonian Institute’s permanent collections in Washington D.C., London’s V&A, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Invader’s pixelated installations, which appear like video games, have been seen in more than 65 cities, as well as at auction and in major gallery exhibitions. Despite such success, the artists still find that their work isn’t in line with the law for their, at times, unsanctioned public displays. There are two reasons for our basic taste for street art: it challenges societal inequality and hypocrisy as it offers self-affirmation to artists whose style doesn’t fall within the remit of fine art.

Street art in the present

While street art still divides opinion when it comes to its effect on urban buildings, it hasn’t prevented it from becoming economically viable. Banksy’s Submerged Phone Booth was sold by Phillips for £772,500 in 2014. That same year saw another high-priced example when a 1986 Keith Haring work sold for a staggering $4,869,000. These examples illustrate just how far street art has come i.e. a globally recognised art form that collectors are willing to pay top dollar for.