My recent trip in Europe exposed me to a lot of art and culture through museums and galleries. Every stop of the journey visit was a cultural revelation but what has struck me most is the abundance of graffiti or street art across roads, markets and subway stations. From avant-garde improper scribbling outside Pompidou Center in Paris to more elegant stenciled work of Banksy in London, street art is perhaps, the best way of arriving at a deeper understanding of the local mindset in a foreign land. But as I explored further, what had started off as a rebellious cultural experience appears to have become a commercial brand in its own right.
Street art may or may not be as underground, rebellious, or “relevant”, I believe that it has a purpose. The street provides a kind of canvas that will never be replicated by any other medium including the internet. Street art is at its most effective when is occurs in unexpected places, subverting our routine experience with the urban environment. It’s hard to achieve that kind of “stumbled upon” effect on any other media, which is rather uniform in shape and size, and where much can be lost.
I think street art’s place in the future will be to continue to snap us out of our complacency with our lived-in reality, to surprise us, to allow us to see the suppleness of our surroundings, how readily the side of a building can become something else. Street art will, hopefully, also serve to bring art out of the cloistered world of galleries, magazines, etc., and put art in the way of people who might never go out of their way to see it.
From my experience of visiting various art galleries, I assume the elitism we associate with the art world is caused by too many artists making art for other artists, rather than for a wider demographic to enjoy and this is where street art comes as a refreshing change to me. Street art, like most underground movements, has been bought into by the mainstream because of its refreshing edginess and rebellious nature. Similarly to music, these sub genres become saturated with mediocre content as people try to make money off them. The encouraging thought is that when this happens another subgenre splinters off in revolt and we can enjoy a new and exciting phenomenon.