Some people believe street art is vandalism. Others think it adds to a city’s unique character. In any case, street art was something I basically ignored in the past but today, thanks to my cousin Anna Marie’s passion for it, I’ve begun to love it too!
I’ve found that regardless of where I am, I can always find street art that inspires me, educates me about my environment or makes me ponder our own existence. So, by way of introduction, this post is the first in what I hope to be a series, depicting street art from my travels.
Street art has long been a popular movement. Found on buildings, pavements, street signs and pretty much everywhere and all around the world. What we once knew as just graffiti is now also a huge contributor to some of this street art. Although I’m not condoning the illegality of graffiti, some of it is pretty good. Even some museums display pieces of street art, which have been valued at significant prices.
What began as mere curiosity a couple of years ago has soon become a deep appreciation, and occasional obsession. In fact, I now do my best to see street art whenever I travel. There’s something so impressive about artists pouring themselves into works that in all likelihood will be removed or destroyed. Even in those street art cities that are friendly towards the scene, even commissioned pieces often fall victim to some deplorable vandal.
Some call it graffiti in a negative way but I think it’s reclaiming the nooks and crannies of the world that are considered “rundown” or “unpleasing.” Street art is an equaliser by giving all artists a place for expression from Tokyo and Paris to Harlem and Toronto.
The best art isn’t always behind velvet ropes. Graffiti, once a punishable act of pavement protest, has become a bona fide art form. It’s been the subject of major exhibitions at institutions like London’s Tate Modern and MOCA in Los Angeles, and has turned taggers like Banksy and Shepard Fairey into international superstars.
Aside from the more technical aspects, street art is simply a beautiful way to liven the concrete backdrop of an otherwise bland, almost dismal scene. Sometimes it’s a multi-story mural exploding with colour, becoming a focal point of the neighbourhood. Other times it’s a simple stencil, maybe conveying some cheeky social commentary.
One particular place I got to visit recently is Tallinn’s Cultural Kilometer, displaying a fine selection of street art and graffiti. There are murals and graffiti inside the cruise ship terminal area, along the Cultural Kilometer and (for as long as it’s standing), on the old Petrai prison.
Another place I’ve recently visited where I was impressed by the street art I saw was Reykjavik. The weather might be grey in Reykjavík for most of the year but a walk around the city quickly reveals a world of colour – there’s a treasure trove of street art adorning building walls, underpasses, houses, and everything in between. In fact, Reykjavík has gained a reputation of being one of the world’s capitals of street art.
Yet another place I got to see some street art was in Wroclaw, Poland’s 4th largest city. Unfortunately, I was only there for a couple of days and did not get the chance to see more of this.
Sometimes, it’s possible to see the artists at work and hang out amongst the crowds at a street art festival. Certain cities around the world host annual events. You can also search out street art in your home country, and you can revisit streets on your doorstep in a different light each time. Have you found any street art that inspires you?