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What is Street Art? Discover its story

Street art between personal development and commerce

The phenomena of street art or urban art like Banksy have made this artistic movement suitable for everyday use. Street art can be many things today. Wall images, sculptures or posters. The abstract representation of animals or fantastic creatures, of surreal spaces that play with perspectives and social developments. Aesthetic, colorful and stylish or dirty and rough. The urban interpretation of painting that we encounter on building facades, public spaces or streets is as polarizing as it is fascinating.

The graffiti movement of the 60s and 70s

The history of street art today dates back to the 1960s and 1970s in New York – the beginnings of the graffiti movement. First started with illegal graffiti on the walls of houses, decorated trains and motorway bridges with their spray writing, called “tags”.
The message behind: their own name.
The pursuit of fame and recognition – without revealing one's true identity.

Moreover, marking places with one's own name or messages seems to be a primordial human need. Examples have been found in almost every era of humanity. The modern form of marking emerged in the United States in the 1930s, when burgeoning street gangs used it to mark their territories. From the 1960s, the original demarcation was transformed into a preliminary stage of the so-called urban guerrilla war. Writers on the New York scene – and later around the world – equated risk with fame: the crazier the place, the greater the potential for recognition.


Tags thus form the true essence of the movement, the smallest and simplest form of illegal self-realization. Because unlike artistic lettering or scenic images, branding does not require aesthetic beauty.

New York, the epicenter of the street art movement

Although some art historians suspect that the origins of graffiti lie well before New York in South America and Europe, New York and the New York hip-hop scene were the epicenter of the graffiti movement. To this day, New York is considered the starting point for the promotion of Graffiti. Thus becoming popular art throughout the world. Deep within New York City's subway stations, young people from marginalized groups who grew up outside elite schools, tennis and golf clubs sought entertainment, personal fulfillment and recognition. By the 1970s, the colorful letters not only adorned subway cars and trains, but also became increasingly integrated into New York's famous cityscape. The art scene quickly became aware of the new form of urban art and renowned artists were inspired by the spray technique. With Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, two representatives conquered the walls of New York art galleries in the 1980s.

Towards a global artistic movement

In the following years, the graffiti movement in its New York form – as so-called style writing – spread far beyond the continent. Whether it's the culture of political protest in Britain, colorful stencil art in Argentina or the artistic designs on the remains of the Berlin Wall – the art form, previously derided as an underground movement, has become more and more socially acceptable. Other forms of this art produced in public spaces are for example: mosaics, stencils, displays, stickers, advertisements or collages.
With artists like Banksy, street art has become an integral part of museums and galleries. Works were auctioned off at auction houses for prices in the millions or served as a tourist magnet.

Street Art, art for all

Since its beginnings in New York, the character of street art has changed. Even if dissociated today, street art is a development of the graffiti movement. Whether it is Graffiti or Street art, there is always a desire to spread messages through individual forms of expression. Sometimes more, sometimes less significant, but always surprising. Both art forms are therefore considered statements in public space. Both art forms are aimed at the general public – and are also seen by people who usually have no or only limited access to art. In this way, street art ensures an expansion of public discourse and calls on all social groups to participate.

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