The history of street art in London
Street art originated in Philadelphia in the late 1960s. Very quickly, it was exported outside the United States and took over the streets of several other states. Following the example of countries like France and Germany, England also welcomed this new art form in the early 1980s. The country takes its first steps in Street Art through the classic graffiti with spray cans.
We quickly note the formation of two major schools: that of London and Bristol. If in this last city the phenomenon is democratized rather quickly, it struggles on the other hand to be popularized in the English capital. Indeed, the city of London was very supervised and this type of art was therefore prohibited at the time. The most reckless graffiti artists were subject to heavy sanctions from the authorities. It was only in the 1990s that the practice of this urban art really took off in the neighborhood of Shoreditch, gradually beautifying the latter.
Progressively, the movement then spread to the whole city, making London the capital of European street art.
Today, street art in London has undergone a clear evolution. Several artists have been able to get past the threats of the authorities and have done everything possible to give it visibility and popularity. Even if nowadays the practice of this art is still illegal in many parts of the UK capital, the legal measures and sanctions have been eased. There are even London neighborhoods in which it is perfectly legal to practice street art, and graffiti artists or taggers do not hesitate to let their creativity express itself.
You can find street art anywhere in London. But some areas of the capital are real open-air museums where you can contemplate a multitude of creations by different artists from all over the world.
We mainly distinguish five:
The Street Art in Brick Lane
Brick Lane is one of the cultural centers of the city of London. In addition to its international market and outdoor bars popular with tourists, the neighborhood is known and appreciated for the diversity of urban art it offers. Indeed, this part of the capital is full of numerous graffiti and beautiful murals. Whether on Aldgate East, Handbury Street or Grimsby Street, one can discover Street Art everywhere in its streets. A signature piece found on Brick Lane is the French Maid.
Camden Town and its beautiful works
This London neighborhood is famous for its flea markets, street food, stores and especially for its street art. With many facades painted or featuring sculptures or murals of famous people, it is fair to say that Camden Town is one of the best places to discover London’s urban art. You can admire a lovely portrait of singer Amy Whinehouse or the beautiful works of the talented Zabou, a young French artist whose creations are mostly found in Bethnal Green or Brick Lane.
Shoreditch, a mecca for street art in London
In the north of the British capital lies the district of Shoreditch. This part of the city is considered the epicenter of urban art in London. The walls of this iconic place of street art have been marked by famous international artists. And the many masterpieces that can be found in its countless streets (Rivington Street, Redchurch Street, Great Easter Street, etc.) are a real treat for the eyes.
On Holywell Lane, the Underground Village Wall is a real attraction for fans of the art. The famous mural by Camille Walala or the splendid graffiti by Stik are some of the magnificent works one encounters in this neighborhood.
London’s urban art at Hackney Wick
Hackney Wick is an industrial area located in East London. It has one of the largest collections of street art in London. Murals by talented and renowned artists are to be found in the streets of this area. Like for example the works of the French Thierry Noir, the graffiti of the famous Stik or the very colorful creations of the Brazilian artist Bailon.
The Brixton neighborhood, a must-see for art lovers
A neighborhood located in South London, Brixton has become one of the iconic places for London street art following the Save Brixton Arches campaign. Indeed, during this event, local artists covered a good majority of the walls of this place with graffiti. However, older works dating back to the 1980s and 1990s also mark the facades.
Today, these works from different eras delight art lovers who come in droves to discover the urban art of the English capital. One can observe the iconic large mural of David Bowie made by Jimmy C (James Cochran) in 2013 or the superb black and white photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode.
Famous London street artists
It is obviously not possible to talk about London street art without referring to these street artists who make the art famous in the city of London. Among the most famous are:
Banksy: this is one of the founders of London Street Art. The Leake street, this tunnel of 300 meters bears the name of this famous artist. However, his identity remains unknown to this day, even if he is presumed to be British.
Ben Eine: whose real name is Benjamin Flynn, he is one of the most talented street artists in London. He is known for the large colorful letters he paints. In fact, in 2018 he created an impressive 17,000 square meter work (the largest in the world) in the east of the capital.
Bambi: she is nicknamed “the female Banksy” and is one of the great female figures of London urban art. A committed and active artist, she creates protest stencils that are very successful.
Roa: Belgian-born urban artist, he is known in London for the gigantic animal murals he has painted on the streets of the capital. In particular, the giant Squirrel or the great Crane in Brick Lane.
Stik: known in London as the “stick man,” he has scattered large stick figures depicting characters throughout most of the city.
London is a city famous for its street art, which attracts enthusiasts and artists from around the world. Although the practice of this art is still prohibited in the English capital, works and murals can be found all over the walls of several areas of the city.