Street art, also known as urban art or graffiti art, is a form of artistic expression that uses the cityscape as a canvas. It can take many forms, including mural paintings, stencil art, sticker art, and wheatpasting, and it is often associated with countercultural movements and political activism. While street art has a long history, it has only recently gained widespread acceptance as a legitimate form of art.
In England, street art has a rich and varied history. From the graffiti of the 1970s and 1980s to the mainstreaming of street art in the 1990s and 2000s, the country has played host to a diverse array of artists and styles. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the rise of street art in England’s cities and explore some of the notable artists and movements that have shaped the scene.
The early days of street art in England
Street art in England has its roots in the graffiti movement of the 1970s and 1980s. During this time, graffiti was often associated with youth culture and was often seen as a form of vandalism. However, for many artists, graffiti was a way to reclaim public space and to make a statement about their place in society.
One of the key figures in the early days of street art in England was Graffiti Kings, a crew founded in the late 1970s by Inkie, a Bristol-based artist. Graffiti Kings was known for its elaborate and colorful graffiti pieces, which were inspired by hip hop culture and the New York graffiti scene. Inkie and Graffiti Kings helped to pave the way for the emergence of street art in England and their work has had a lasting impact on the scene.
Other notable artists and movements of the time include the London-based graffiti artist King Mob, who was active in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Stuckists, a group of artists who were active in the 1990s and who were known for their use of stencils and political messages. These early street artists laid the foundations for the mainstreaming of street art in England in the following decades.
The mainstreaming of street art in the 1990s and 2000s
In the 1990s and 2000s, street art in England began to gain wider acceptance as a legitimate form of art. This was due in part to the emergence of street art festivals and events, such as the Notting Hill Carnival and the Cans Festival, which helped to bring street art to a wider audience.
During this time, street art in England also became more commercialized. Artists such as Banksy, who emerged on the scene in the late 1990s, gained widespread recognition and began to sell their work in galleries and at auctions. This increased visibility helped to legitimize street art and helped to bring it into the mainstream.
As street art became more mainstream, it also began to be more heavily regulated. In some cases, street art was removed or painted over by authorities, leading to a debate over the legal status of street art and the right of artists to express themselves in public spaces. Despite these challenges, street art continued to thrive in England, with a wide range of artists and styles emerging on the scene.
In the next section, we’ll take a look at street art in contemporary England and explore how social media and the commercialization of street art have impacted the scene.
Street art in contemporary England
In contemporary England, street art is a thriving and diverse scene. It continues to be a way for artists to express themselves and to engage with the broader public, and it is a powerful tool for social and political activism.
One of the key factors in the growth of street art in contemporary England has been the rise of social media. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have made it easier for artists to share their work and for people to discover street art in their cities. This has helped to promote street art and has brought new artists to the scene.
However, the commercialization of street art has also had an impact on the scene. As street art has gained wider recognition and acceptance, it has become more marketable, leading to the emergence of street art tours and the commodification of street art. This has led to some tension within the community, with some artists feeling that the authenticity of street art is being lost.
Despite these challenges, street art continues to thrive in England. From Bristol to London to Manchester, England’s cities are home to a wide range of street art, with styles and themes that reflect the diverse experiences and perspectives of the artists.
For more information on Day Trips From London, check out this page. In the next section, we’ll take a look at some examples of notable street art in England’s cities.
Examples of notable street art in England’s cities
Bristol: Banksy and the Bristol graffiti scene
Bristol is widely considered to be the birthplace of street art in England, and it has a thriving graffiti scene that is known for its diverse range of styles and themes. One of the most well-known street artists to emerge from Bristol is Banksy, who began his career in the city in the 1990s.
Banksy is known for his satirical and politically-charged works, which often use stencils and guerilla tactics to get his message across. His work can be found all over Bristol and has helped to put the city on the map as a hub for street art.
Other notable artists from the Bristol graffiti scene include Inkie, who founded the Graffiti Kings crew in the 1970s, and 3D, a member of the Massive Attack group who is known for his large-scale mural paintings.
London: Street art in the East End and Shoreditch
London has a vibrant street art scene, with many notable works to be found in the East End and Shoreditch neighborhoods. The East End has a long history of street art and is home to many of the city’s most iconic mural paintings, including the “Old Man of Islington” by Robert Del Naja (aka 3D) and the “Queen’s Head” by Ben Eine.
Shoreditch, on the other hand, is known for its more contemporary street art scene, with a wide range of styles and themes on display. Some notable artists from the Shoreditch scene include Stik, whose simple stick figure paintings are a fixture of the neighborhood, and Shepard Fairey, whose large-scale mural paintings often incorporate political and social commentary.
In addition to mural paintings, Shoreditch is also home to a number of graffiti and street art galleries, such as the Stolen Space Gallery and the Hang-Up Gallery, which showcase the work of local and international artists.
Manchester: The Northern Quarter and the Manchester graffiti scene
Manchester is known for its vibrant and diverse street art scene, with many notable works to be found in the Northern Quarter neighborhood. The Northern Quarter is home to a number of galleries and studios, and it is a hub for creative expression in the city.
Some notable artists from the Manchester graffiti scene include Copdock, whose colorful and intricate murals can be found throughout the city, and Xenz, who is known for his abstract and surrealist works.
Visit English Street Art With A Personal Guide
In conclusion, the rise of street art in England’s cities has been a fascinating journey, from the graffiti of the 1970s and 1980s to the mainstreaming of street art in the 1990s and 2000s. Today, street art is a thriving and diverse scene that reflects the experiences and perspectives of artists from all walks of life. Whether you’re a fan of classic graffiti or contemporary mural paintings, there is something for everyone in England’s street art scene.
If you’d like a personal guide through the wonders of the English street art scene, get in touch with our tour planners below for a tailored tour itinerary.