So I did a quick search on "London graffiti" and found this recent Huffington Post item titled "12 Awesome Graffiti Trips Around the World," and my destinations were numbers 1, 2, and 4 on the list.
I knew, of course, about the famous graffiti on what's left of the Berlin Wall. And when one thinks of London graffiti one thinks of Banksy and Ben Eine, whose work the Prime Minister recently gave Barack Obama as a gift of state. Huffington Post suggests Brick Lane in East London for a graffiti tour, while another recent article directs us to an "outdoor gallery" of graff at an old ballcourt. Banksy's work in particular is an odd conundrum: Illegal, it also makes whatever he paints on much more valuable.
I was most interested, though, in the description via Huffington Post of the Galeria Oberta in Barcelona:
Open 365 days a year, this “exhibition space on the street” aims to make graffiti accessible to everyone, by giving artists the perfect spot to showcase their creations on the long brick wall of the Parc de les Aigües. Dangerously hypnotizing for those driving past, this wall literally jumps out at you, causing you to gaze in amazement at the sheer talent of the artists. Whether you are for or against graffiti, you cannot deny that the 34 creations of the Galeria Oberta are far more interesting to look at than bricks. The artists use stencils, spray cans and paint brushes, and explore contemporary issues with irony, one of the most appropriate being a line of businessmen pointing accusingly at each other with the word “crisis.” We can only wait on tenterhooks for the next painting day to take place, and to find out what Barcelona’s eager graffiti artists have in store. Anyone can reserve a space on the wall by simply filling out a form, but if you do, make sure you don’t graffiti outside the border!See more on Galeria Oberta from Oh Trip!, as well as this post discussing street art throughout Barcelona. I'm especially intrigued with the idea of periodically changing public mural space that can be reserved, as I've suggested a more generalized version of that approach - connecting property owners and mural painters online for permission work - on this blog in the past. We'll see if I can resist the temptation to take a graff-related sidetrip or two while I'm abroad.
- Not in London, but the "Pretty Vacant" program in Newcastle strikes me as a constructive collaboration between graff writers and the community. With permission, they're painting windows of boarded up businesses on the grounds that "shops left empty give visitors a 'bad impression of the area' but by making these vacant spaces look vibrant, local entrepreneurs will be encouraged to rent the premises."
- Here in the states, Harry Jaffe discusses a D.C. program called "Keep Art in Schools" that lets kids hone their graffiti skills in a summer youth program but channels them into constructive, marketable endeavors. The title of the program reminds me that the rise of graffiti in the last decade in Texas has coincided with a decline in school arts programs as schools focused more on preparing kids for standardized tests. The result: in kids doing less art in school and more in the streets. That's a correlation, at this point, not proven causation, but it's a relationship that bears consideration.