Street art between self-realization and commerce

Street Art phenomena like Banksy have made street art suitable for everyday use. Street art can be a lot today. Wall or stencil pictures, posters or sculptures. The abstract representation of animals or fantasy beings; of surreal spaces that play with perspectives and social developments. Pop and colorful. Aesthetic and stylish. Or dirty and rough. The urban interpretation of painting that we encounter on building facades, public squares or streets is as polarizing as it is fascinating.

The graffiti movement of the 1960s and 70s

 

The history of today’s street art dates back to the 1960s and 1970s in New York City – the beginnings of the graffiti movement. Graffiti sprayers – also known as writers – sprayed illegal images on house walls, decorated trains and motorway bridges with their handwriting (tags). The message behind it: your own name. The pursuit of awareness and recognition – without revealing the true identity. The marking of places with your own name or messages seems to be a prehistoric need. We find examples of this in almost all eras of humanity. The modern form of tagging manifested itself in the 1930s in the United States, when emerging street gangs marked their areas with it. From the 1960s, the original demarcation developed into a preliminary stage of urban guerilla marketing – on its own behalf. The writers of the New York scene – and later from all over the world – equated risk with fame: the crazier the location, the greater the potential recognition. Tags thus form the real essence of the movement, the smallest and simplest form of illegal self-expression. Because unlike spraying artistic lettering (pieces) or scenic pictures, tagging does not require an aesthetic beauty.

New York as the epicenter of the street art movement

Even if some art historians suspect that the origins of graffiti lie far before New York in South America and Europe, New York and the New York hip hop scene formed the epicenter of the graffiti movement. To this day, New York is considered the place from which graffiti art became popular around the world, which had a lasting impact on the scene. In the depths of the New York subway stations, young people from marginalized social groups who grew up outside the elite schools, tennis and golf clubs were looking for entertainment, self-fulfillment and recognition. The colorful lettering not only adorned subway cars and trains in the 1970s, but increasingly became part of the famous New York cityscape. The art scene quickly became aware of the new form of urban art, and renowned artists were inspired by the technology of the sprayers. With Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, two representatives conquered the walls of New York’s art galleries in the 1980s, whose works were strongly reminiscent of the colorful paintings by graffiti artists.

To this day, New York is considered the place from which graffiti art became popular around the world, which had a lasting impact on the scene.  ❝

The path to the global art movement

In the following years, the graffiti movement in its New York form – so-called stylewriting – spread far beyond the continent. Be it the political protest culture in Great Britain, the colorful stencil art in Argentina or the artistic drawings on the remains of the Berlin Wall – the art form, which was hitherto ridiculed as an underground movement, became more and more socially acceptable. With artists such as Banksy, street art developed into a permanent fixture in museums and galleries, was auctioned off at auction houses at prices in the millions, or increasingly served as a tourist magnet. The hype has remained to this day, but is no longer only used for commercial purposes. The Hamburg organization Viva con Agua uses street art to generate donations for their worldwide drinking water projects. Street artists from all over the world have been gathering in St. Pauli for ten years to create unique works of art as part of the Millerntor Gallery and then auction them off for a good cause.

The path to the global art movement

In the following years, the graffiti movement in its New York form – so-called stylewriting – spread far beyond the continent. Be it the political protest culture in Great Britain, the colorful stencil art in Argentina or the artistic drawings on the remains of the Berlin Wall – the art form, which was hitherto ridiculed as an underground movement, became more and more socially acceptable. With artists such as Banksy, street art developed into a permanent fixture in museums and galleries, was auctioned off at auction houses at prices in the millions, or increasingly served as a tourist magnet. The hype has remained to this day, but is no longer only used for commercial purposes. The Hamburg organization Viva con Agua uses street art to generate donations for their worldwide drinking water projects. Street artists from all over the world have been gathering in St. Pauli for ten years to create unique works of art as part of the Millerntor Gallery and then auction them off for a good cause.

Street art = art for everyone

Since the early days in New York, the character of street art has changed. Even if street art is a further development of the graffiti movement, there are only limited commonalities today. Unlike the often rough and vandalistic character of graffiti, which is primarily based on letters that dissolve painterly into an abstract representation, street art happens on a much gentler level and is now recognized as a recognized form of modern art. What has remained, however, is the attempt to spread messages about individual forms of expression. Sometimes more, sometimes less meaningful, but always surprising. Both art forms are thus statements in public space. Both art forms are detached from consumption and are directed against the authoritarian authorities. Both art forms are aimed at the general public – and are also perceived by people who generally have no or only limited access to art. Street art thus expands public discourse and calls on all groups of society to participate.

Both art forms are detached from consumption and are directed against the authoritarian authorities. Both art forms are aimed at the general public – and are also perceived by people who generally have no or only limited access to art. 

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