10 of The Best Cities In The World For Street Art
Street art. Some people love it and see it as a vital form of expression to the masses whilst others see it as an unnecessary distraction and occasionally criminal damage of otherwise pristine property.
Whatever your view, it can be hard to deny that the people behind it are both clever and talented and if you do wish to see more of it, here we document a few great cities to search it out.
1. Berlin, Germany
The German capital has become a rich hub of street art that dates back to the building of the Berlin Wall. This large obstruction that split a nation apart was seen as a blank canvas to street artists who used it as a target for politically motivated work.
Although the wall is now long gone, the culture has remained behind and all over the city, you can see some amazing graffiti adorning walls and buildings.
2. New York City, USA
Some of the earliest forms of street art originate from New York with gangs painting over street cars and walls as far back as the 1920s and 30s. it had an underground and subversive vibe to it right up until the 1970s and 80s, where it became a more popular form of expression and was picked up by global corporations and mainstream artists.
New York is undoubtedly the home of street art and, as such, has a hyper-cultured vibe to it where the art doesn't stay the same for long as it grows, evolves and eventually disappears under layers of something else.
3. Bristol, UK
Bristol is a city that is culturally alive and possesses a thriving contemporary art scene. Dotted along street corners or throughout the dockyards are various galleries and exhibition spaces hosting a myriad of established and underground artists. The city where Banksy started out quite often holds events where whole streets or warehouses are turned over to local and international artists.
During the See No Evil Festival, Nelson Stree, one of Bristol’s major roads, is transformed from a drab, gray artery into a walkway bursting with life and color.
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Pichação (‘writing in tar’) began as political graffiti during the Brazilian dictatorship, with its distinct calligraphic font inspired by the heavy metal album covers that dominated the São Paulo airwaves during the 1980s. The dictatorship may now be gone, but the spirit of rebellion and political awareness of the people lives on.
As such, the graffiti scene has burst into life and blossomed, and almost every street corner is tagged but nowadays the ‘Pichadores’ are mostly interested in extreme tagging, with success measured in volume and height.
5. London, UK
Bristol isn't the only place in the UK to see great street art as the capital was pivotal in the explosive growth of the street art scene from the late ’90s to mid-2000s.
The post-industrial landscape and urban regeneration undertaken by the New Labour government saw a backlash to the Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end boutiques moving into London's East-End and also got caught up in the burgeoning drum 'n bass music scene at the time.
6. Melbourne, Australia
If Sydney is Australia's cultural capital then Melbourne is its counter-cultural one! The city's design has led to the street art boom as its large, sweeping avenues and characterful, bluestone-cobbled lanes, provide a variety of spots and hideaways for artists to practice their craft away from the eyes of the law in a city where it is still illegal, yet still knowing that it will get enough foot traffic to bring it to attention.
Despite its criminal status, many locals are quite happy with the street art there and attempts to preserve some more iconic pieces by the likes of Banksy and Keith Haring have varied in success.
7. Lisbon, Portugal
Like Brazil, Portugal's street art scene has its origins in political strife. The first half of the 20th century saw Portugal stifled by a right-wing dictatorship, but the 1974 revolution resulted in an upsurge in politically motivated public art.
In recent years, Lisbon city council has actively supported street artists, and as such, homegrown artists and high profile international ones have flocked to the city.
8. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Where in most cities you need permission from the local council to create a new mural or piece of street art, Buenos Aires is unique in the sense that you only need permission from the property owner.
As such, street art has become more prevalent than in many other places as the legality of it is far less questionable.
9. Los Angeles, USA
Famed for its calligraphic ‘cholo’ graffiti style, which evolved from Latino gang graffiti, the street art style of the city is sprawling as the wide urban spaces and large chunks of concrete meant that pieces could be massive and would often take days to complete.
In more tightly knit cities with a closer sense of hustle and bustle, speed and use of space are imperative, and so the feel of street art here is quite different to that of many other cities.7
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
Although not too obvious in much of the incredibly clean and well-kept city, head to the Freetown Christian part of the Danish capital and you'll be surprised at the change of scenery. An old military base in the city, it became a squat in 1971 that rapidly evolved into a sequestered hippy commune of shared ownership, soft drugs, and street art and this free radical thinking led the area to declare itself an autonomous region.
Other areas like the old meat-packing district also see graffiti scrawled up on the high rises and billboards of the city.