phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Advertisement

Wall to Wall Art

10 October 2011

The artistic war on brick and concrete that rages on around our capital

In the eyes of some it’s wanton vandalism; for others, a modern socioartistic vehicle that uses stereotypes and preconceptions to pattern opinion.
 
The fact that lovers of art are so divided in their opinions on the work of Banksy and other regaled yet largely anonymous graffiti artists is somewhat reassuring, seeing as local authorities find themselves similarly undecided on whether to decorate or redecorate street art.
 
Of course, before the turn of the new Millennium, none of this was a problem. Graffiti and stencilling was branded simply as low-grade antisocial behaviour... often borne out of underground rivalries between taggers testing nerve, prolificacy and good old-fashioned bravado.
 
But when UK artists like Banksy and Hush (who were influenced by stencil art pioneers of the 1970s such as Blek le Rat) brought attractive, humorous and largely inoffensive scrawls to the concreted walls of our towns and cities, they sanitised and commercialised graffiti. In essence, they applied a respective veneer to something that had previously been deemed totally unacceptable.

Wind forward 11 years and, where street art is concerned, council representatives appear no closer to a common code of practice.
 
What’s true is that for every original Banksy creation that sits rebelliously on a street corner or under the arch of a bridge, there are multiple others that have been painted over by street clean-up operations.
 
And yet an investigation led by university students in Banksy’s home city of Bristol concluded that “Due to its political and social statements, [Banksy’s work] carries a cultural significance in modern society. The public has indicated that this needs to be kept and by extension, preserved.”
 
That approval ‘from the streets’ came via an online poll asking for the public's view on a Banksy creation laid onto the blank wall of a clinic overlooking Park Street. The poll gave a result of 97 per cent in favour of keeping the work, and it has remained.
 
For the owners of daubed property, the riches are more financial than artistic, with proprietors often going to great lengths to protect murals that have been known to fetch in excess of £200,000 at auction.
 
There’s also a raft of rich contradictions at play here – that owners protect (by CCTV and other methods) then sell something that is, ostensibly, illegal. There’s also no criminal act in spoilers (rival graffiti artists, for instance) defacing said artwork. And then there’s the reality that protecting the artwork would appear to be reinforcing the political and social elements that Banksy and others are attacking.
 
The fear for local councils, of course, is that in allowing one piece to remain they are permitting the existence of others that will inevitably appear. That’s why, in over a decade of debate, one thing never to have changed has been that, in law, an application for the listing of art so as to preserve it for future generations can quickly be overruled by councils. They can swiftly (and without consultation) suffocate the intentions of the public, the artist, and even the owner of the decorated property.
 
In some cases though, even the councils are swimming against the tide. The Leake Street tunnel beneath Waterloo station comprises over 300 yards of prolific graffiti which, it is imagined, is there to stay, finding itself reinvented for some time to come.
 
In addition, with advertising brands employing bold and stunningly artistic guerrilla marketing ploys, and street art pioneers evading prosecution by such techniques as reverse graffiti or clean stencilling (the totally legal process of creating art by cleaning a dirty surface), does the work of Banksy and others not actually nestle alongside these new platforms rather comfortably?
{ad-placement-MPU1}

Most popular

What to See at The Cinema

What to See at The Cinema

Your go-to guide to what's on the silver screen
Advertisement
Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

The five finest spots in London to shoot the breeze and pass the pipe
Advertisement
The Best Riverside Walks In London

The Best Riverside Walks In London

Oh we do like to be beside the canalside...
Advertisement
A Guide to the Best Lidos in London

A Guide to the Best Lidos in London

Looking to beat the heat or enjoy some fun in the sun? Here are our top 5 London lidos to enjoy this summer.
Advertisement
Top Theatre of the Week

Top Theatre of the Week

Where to get the best of new theatre openings in London
Top Exhibitions of the Week

Top Exhibitions of the Week

The place to come for all the best current exhibitions in London...
London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

With the balmy weather here to stay, why not take in the sumptuous beauty that these London flower shows have to offer
Top Gigs of the Week

Top Gigs of the Week

From underground indie to rap stars to house legends, we've got you covered...
Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Even if the Easter bunny doesn’t visit your garden this month, there are plenty of ways to get your sweet fix this springtime

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!

Advertisement