• Ayoko Eleonore

Street art, transforming the street into a museum

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Street art is trendy! Initially controversial, to be essentially illegal, this artistic movement is now finding a strong echo among the public as well as art professionals.

Is street art to graphic art what rap is to music?

In the 1990s, these two disciplines which emerged from the street embodied the denunciation and claim of the way of life of those who did not have access to culture in its conventional and elitist form. Through this artistic expression, the authors made themselves spokespersons for a difficult reality and denounced what the privileged classes did ignore or did not want to see. More than that, they also represented codes and messages of hope for their listeners and spectators.

For a few years now, both rap and street art have been on the rise!

The strong messages they transmit have gone beyond the neighbourhoods where they were born, to make their mark on generalist radio stations, musical shows, on front pages of newspapers, in galleries, museums and in the heart of cities.

Urban art has found its legitimacy in the amplitude of its echo and is popular even at the institutional level: official support from rappers to political representatives, iconic images created by street artists such as Shepard Fairey's famous Obama Hope poster for the 2008 American campaign.

Is it the popular success of street art that pushes institutions to promote it or is it the promotion of street art by institutions that allows to increase its popularity?

Probably both!

Today that dynamic offers the inhabitants and visitors of cities from the five continents the opportunity to encounter art at any street corner and in all its forms: graffiti, stencils, stick art, installations, yarn bombing, tape art, so many techniques inspired by the artistic potential of the urban or natural environment.

In our cities, street art joins artistic architecture, such as Gaudi's Casa Batlló in Barcelona (Spain) and statues and sculptures, such as Mariko's Mustang in Montpellier (France). Creative spaces and festivals dedicated to this discipline are emerging, guided tours are organised by the cities.

Some municipalities go even further and commission street artists to dress up monuments, sometimes as the masterpiece of their tourist attraction.

The town council of Ajo in Spain asked the artist Okuda San Miguel to paint his famous Faro de Ajo.

The artist explains, "72 shades of colours that represent the natural wealth and cultural diversity of Cantabria". This initiative is controversial among the inhabitants, but nobody have given up and Faro de Ajo now enjoys an established and eclectic reputation.

Street art or open-air museum

It's incredible! The artists' liveliness of mind combined with new technologies invite us to broaden our field of vision, push the limits of our imagination and try out new experiences. The street artist TVboy, known for his nod to current events and drawings made at the four corners of the world, offers us an experience worthy of a museum visit. Equipped with our smartphone, he invites us to flash the QR code placed next to his work in order to immerse us in his universe and guide us in his approach.

The artists break the codes and soon the museum in the street or the street in the museum become one, as illustrated by the spectacular workshop presented in September by the Kourtrajmé’s school "Jusqu’ici tout va bien" at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris, France).

In short, there is no doubt that street art is now an integral part of the art market. It can be found in galleries as well as in the most famous auction houses. Its creators are more and more recognized, as illustrated by the growth of Banksy's listing in recent years. However, regardless of its financial valuation, street art does not seem to lose its essence. It remains accessible and visible in its initial form and through its many techniques, in order to enliven our urban spaces and spread its messages.