The importance of Street Art

Iona Lowe takes a look back at the origins of street art so that we can understand its importance

Iona Lowe
8th November 2020
Although the idea of street art supposedly erupted back in the 1980s, this form of art has been around for much longer than many realise. In fact, street art was one of the first forms of artistic expression – disguised as cave paintings. 

Despite this archaic heritage, many people in the art world disregarded street art, until artists such as Banksy and Basquiat came along and changed the definition, previously frowned upon ‘Graffiti’ soon flourished into its own and became part of the respected art market. 

The initial boom happened in the 80s, the age of freedom and expression, street art became an important place for people to react to their government and ruling political power. Cities became blank canvases. Spaces to paint individualistic pieces of artwork defining the people who lived within its walls- very fitting with the flower power movement. 

Cities became blank canvases. Spaces to paint individualistic pieces of artwork defining the people who lived within its walls

Instagram: basquiat_archive

Over the years, as society has become more individual, street art has become an important platform to allow expression, especially in a post-corona era where galleries, artistic institutions and art fairs have been forced to close, resulting in artists moving to the streets to get their message across. Street art also allows art to be free, as it should be. After all, drawings are an innate part of human nature.

In our modern culture, art has become capitalised. Decorated streets allow people to communicate their political mindset, while also allowing others to appreciate the works that surround them. But where did it all start?

Measuring at 27 miles long, we move to the Berlin wall where rebel artists, such as Thierry Noir, illegally painted the wall- inspiring thousands of others to follow.  Berlin is now one of the largest centres for street art, and the art found there reflects the creativity of the people and the depth of the Berlin art scene, as well as acting as a reminder of the history of the generations behind us. A history that cannot be tampered with – unlike the Orwellian fragility of words. 

Banksy Basquiat via Wikimedia

Artists such as Noir paved the way for a new perspective on street art. Hence along came the Banksy revolution. 

Simple yet effective, his artwork has been popping up all over the world since the 1990s and has risen in popularity ever since. The simple line drawings are easy to appreciate. Allowing members of the public to engage with them, without too much stress. As well as for free. 

However, the popularity of Banksy’s work comes from his anonymity. As one member of the public commented ‘Banksy, everyone is Banksy’. It is the sense of unification that has made his art so popular. People feel represented when they see his artwork. There is no face behind the name of Banksy – expect the face of the people.

Featured Image: Berlin Wall via Pixabay

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