What is Street Art? History and Definition

Posted by Robert Lange on

What is street art? It’s any kind of art that can be found in the streets, like graffiti, stickers, or even posters. Street art is quite controversial since many people perceive it as acts of vandalism rather than true art, yet the likes of Banksy prove that true masterpieces may be created on the streets as well. In this article, we explore this topic further, traveling back to the beginnings of street art and presenting some of the greatest artworks from this movement. We invite you to join us and read on!

What Is Street Art? Definition

Street art is an art movement that is extremely popular and has gathered many supporters. It’s a form of art created in urban centers, usually on exterior walls of buildings, highway overpasses or bridges. It’s usually focused on political and social issues, though this doesn’t necessarily have to be the sole aim and inspiration for such artworks.

Street art incorporates many techniques, with graffiti being the most common and recognized one. However, it can go further. Stickers, posters, LED lights, even mosaics and video projections can be treated as street art, as long as their canvases are indeed the streets.

Street Art History

When did street art start? Well, we could go back even to prehistoric times, when the first drawings were created on cave walls, showing that even then, people found forms of art embedded onto walls attractive. Yet, the true beginnings of Street Art are much closer to the present.

In the 1920s and 1930s, gangs in New York used graffiti to mark their territories, usually by tagging their names. The same goes for the times of World Wars, when graffiti was used as an act of rebellion against the occupiers.

This escalated further in the 1960s. The recession in New York caused many offices and industrial sites to close. Those then became a canvas for creative kids, who turned the art of graffiti from just tagging or writing in aerosol sprays to creating true, artistic murals.

The next years brought an evolution to street art, with it finally reaching art galleries in the 1980s and becoming recognized in the artistic world.

Is Street Art Illegal?

Whether street art is or isn’t illegal depends on the circumstances. After all, even the most beautiful graphic artwork placed on a historic monument will be treated as damage, won’t it? But what about more common forms of street art, like murals?

In this case, it all depends on consent. City councils often appreciate street art, and actually invite the artists or pay them to decorate particular surfaces with murals. When it comes to privately owned buildings, sometimes the artists themselves ask for permission to let their creativity loose. In such circumstances, street art is legal.

But, if an artist does not ask for permission, then it’s not. Creating even the best masterpieces without the consent of the owner of the surface will be illegal in the eyes of the justice system, even if the person owning a particular building does like the final piece.

Best Street Art Artists and Examples of Their Works

So, who should you know about, whose artworks are worth following, and who is the best of the best in the world of street art? Take a look below!

  • Banksy – Coming from the city of Bristol, Banksy is the one and only street artist known worldwide, even by those who have no interest in Street Art at all. His works are known to be paint-stenciled images combining the elements of pop culture and political themes. His works are known to be thrived by art collectors, and his activity led to the so-called Banksy Effect – art collectors becoming interested in other street artists after seeing how popular Banky’s works are.

street art

  • Lady Pink – Belonging to the original NYC street artists from the 1960s and 1970s, Lady Pink has started her journey with Street Art by painting subway trains. Nowadays, her works are well appreciated and displayed in the most prestigious cultural institutions in New York City, including The Metropolitan Museum.

street art

  • Keith Haring – Known as a street artist with some strong inspirations in pop art, he is most well known for his mural on the Berlin Wall. However, his other works also deserve appreciation, especially his mural in Philadelphia titled We the youth.

The Takeaway

Street art is already popular, but it’s going to get even more recognition. Considering that it is legal, as long as the artist has permission from the owner of the building that they want to use as a canvas, we should all be expecting even more street artists to emerge in the future. Who knows, perhaps we will even live to see someone even greater than Banksy himself?

Did you like this article? Then you should also read: What is Contemporary Art? Definition and Examples

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