Since relocating to London, I’ve been repeatedly astonished by the quality and sheer preponderance of street art. The stuff is everywhere, especially in my neighbourhood of east London. It’s gorgeous, inspiring stuff, too, not just illegible tags (not that there’s anything wrong with illegible tags, except that it’s kind of a private club, what with the illegibility and all). Which is why it’s so nice to see all these elaborate murals; capering characters; tiny, easily-missed tableaus…
A few of these artists are close to household names, people like Roa, Invader, Christiaan Nagel, and of course, Banksy. But wait, there’s more: If you’ve got money to burn, there are people you can hire to give you a tour of the art. Barring that, you can even download an official street art iPhone app.
On the other hand, many of London’s local councils consider the artwork garden variety vandalism—meaning the artists are criminals and ne’er-do-wells. Once their stuff is deemed graffiti, it eventually gets plastered over.
Then there’s the recent controversy in which one of Banksy’s stencils, done to coincide with the London Olympics, was chiseled off a north London wall, only to resurface on a Miami auction block—priced at £450,000 (sheesh). The sale of the piece was eventually blocked, however, following outrage from the local community, who had grown to love it.
Needless to say, there’s a story behind each of these. Damned if I know many of them, though; I just take pictures on my way to the library. Some of my favourites: