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The Thames river path boasts the iconic structures that warrant London as synonymous with heritage, architecture and creative innovation.
Marking a historic turn in the Tate Modern’s affiliations with graffiti art, their current exhibition ‘Street Art’ signals an introduction to their audiences of an art form never previously contemplated in their space, inside or out. The presentation of six international urban artists’ work is displayed across 15-metre-tall panels of the buildings façade including the works of Faile from New York, JR from Paris, Nunca and Oc Gemeos from Sao Paolo, Sixeart from Barcelona and Blu from Bologna. Their brief was to provide ‘the more visual and engaging urban art as opposed to text-based graffiti and tagging’.
Both stunning and dramatically intrusive to the eye, it represents a new dialogue with traditional museum markets aware either only of Banksy or still comfortable with the tired notion of graffiti as purely vandalism. With the ‘accreditation’ of a major public institution validating the works of these artists, new debates have also triggered how this will add to graffiti’s fluctuating transition into the mainstream art world.
With Tate Modern’s more commercial facing structure close by, their additional activity of a walking tour was included, lead by 5 Madrid artists, El Tono, Nuria, Spok, Nano4814 and 3TTMan. Works of art were positioned around the Southwark area, allowing audiences to discover them and bring them back to the artists to be signed and then take home.
Somewhere off the beaten track, on Leake Street close to Waterloo Station, Banksy hosted The Cans Festival, a three day street party of stencil art, skinning the inside of a disused tunnel formerly used by taxis. Re-establishing the notion of urban art as enhancing otherwise ugly, derelict environments, The Cans Festival was concentrated around one funnelled community of installations, artists and acquisitions of walls space for live doodling.
Criticism loomed over the Tate Modern’s involvement of the Street Art exhibition taking place in May within the same time span as Banksy’s yet one cannot argue that the overlap of events allowed for a wider reach to audiences of this still doubted art form.
The artists also took to London’s infamous Village Underground and overwhelmed the grey landscape with sprayings of infinite colour. Whatever available spaces around the Shoreditch area were also considered, bringing the project over the river to Southwark and into the city’s burgeoning creative community.
And then there was A PARTY! Cordy House in London’s Shoreditch was intoxicated with yet more spray fumes as the interiors of the ground floor of the warehouse building erupted in colours on walls.