On streetart – right after two grand premieres

At he beginning of this month, one of my favourite publishing houses has released   an unusual
guide , which, instead of describing places, deals with a certain phenomenon – street art. I’ve
hapened upon it, while ordering books on places I’m planning to visit. Instantly, I added it to my
cart. I was dying to see it, compare it to my experience with street art hunting and to look for
inspiration for another street art themed trip. I was also curious about the way the author managed
to deal with this broad subject.

Another reason, why I’m writing this was a screening of a documentary –   „Saving Banksy” . I had a
chance to see the film on 15 th April at   Arnolfini . After the screening, a meeting was held, where you
could talk to the director and camera operator, Colin Day, but also meet the Ed Bartlett, the author
of the aforementioned guide. Ed Bartlett is considered a modern guru of street art, also known as
  Blek le Rat .

Street Art
Before I share my imperssions, I’d like to tell you a couple of things about street art. It’s been a part
of the mainstream contemporary art for a while now. Although everyone has heard of it, or seen a
few examples of street art, its understanding varies between observers. For me street art
encompasses every kind of artistic activity in public space, all effects of said activity, available for
everyone to enjoy. To get a better grasp at the history of street art both in Poland and worldwide, I
recommend reading the article   Street art in Poland by Marcin Rutkiewicz, published in   ZNAK  .
The author is an expert on street art – he knows, what he’s talking about and can do so in an
interesting way. I don’t want to repeat his opinions here, although I wholeheartedly agree with him.
The article by Rutkiewicz deals with two, in my opinion, essential topics – graffiti and its relation
with street art; and graffiti as an integral part of the place, where it was created.
It is common for people fond of street art to regard graffiti as but an act of vandalism. Such people
forget, that there would be no street art without graffiti and that there’s a thin line between art and
vandalism. All those middle-aged men, nowadays regared as artists, were once kids with markers
and spray cans in their backpacks. Back then, much like today’s youth, they didn’t care, what the
society has to say about them and what they’re doing. Street art is not just the act of painting –
setting the stage is equally important. Mind you, most masterpieces of street art were – and still are
– created illegally. These works are not devoid of any contact with reality. To the contrary, the
place, where they were created is integral to them. They showcase particular styles, contain shout

outs to the history of their „birthplace” and the people, who created them. They are a form of
dialogue with other social groups. I’m planning on making a separate article on specific street
artists, their style and activities. It is a broad subject and even Ed Bartlett called his book „more of a
guideline, than a compendium”.
Street Art guide by Lonely Planet
I don’t know how, but they did it. For a paltry sum we get a beautiful edition of the guide.
Hardcover, with a matt dust cover and quality paper – as is befitting for an album on art. For the
stay-at-home type of people, it is a perfect book to browse through by the fireplace – there’s plenty
of photos inside. Choosing the right works from all around the world must’ve been a difficult task,
nevertheless some iconic pieces were chosen – ones that perfectly represent the feel of the city they
were made in. But these are just a first step to the world of street art. I’m certain, you’ll feel as
enthralled as I was with the photos, and will soon be browsing the Internet for the artists’ other
works, always hungry for more…
You’ll get a better grasp on street art not only by reading the preface by the author and by   Remi
Rough , a street artist, who talks about the phenomenon based on his own experience, but also
beacuse of great interviews with the world’s leading street artists, contained in the book.
Bear in mind, though, that it is a tourist guide – a book to read, when planning a trip. And it serves
its purpose perfectly. Of course, it is but a starting point, as it’s impossible to create a complete
guide to street art around the world. Nevertheless, several European capitals have been described in
this book. One of them is Kiev, as most street art fans consider Eastern Europe to be today’s mecca
of street art. There are also some examples from both North and South America and other parts of
the world. We get to know the differences in style of street art in various cities and their districts.
There’s a bit on the history of street art and a map of important street art regions, with famous works
pinpointed on it. Many street art festivals – which recently gained popularity – were also
mentioned, including something from Poland – Danzig’s  Traffic Design . Another palce, never
mentioned before, is Bristol – Banksy’s hometown and the host of the  Upfest . Artists travel the
world to aint their works. We can do the same to enjoy their masterpieces.

Saving Banksy
Before the screening started, Colin Day mused, how his girlfriend was wondering, whether the film

will be completed, as the director rarely finishes his projects. He also said, that this is probably his
last film on the subject, as it took lots of time to make and Colin’s had enough of it. Whatever he’s
planning to do next, I’d love to see it, as it’s been long, since I’ve seen such a well made
documentary as Saving Banksy.

The theme of the film is a wiedly discussed topic – street art disappears from the streets, becoming
a part of private collections. Many controversies and doubts have risen over this phenomenon. Since
the film deals with them, I won’t re reiterating them in this article. I’m sure you’ll have similar
opinions about this situation. The film is also an example of great journalism – the problem has
been well detailed, we get to see, how it develops, while being able to hear both sides and their
arguments. I was shocked to learn, that Colin was also the camera operator, not just the director.
And the photos were amazing, as was the editing. I could go on and on about the film, but it’s best if
you check out the trailer and see for yourself.

Did you see, who’s in this film? By watching it you get to learn about the opinions the world’s
leading street artists have on this subject, including  Ben Eine ,  Risk ,  Glen E.Friedman ,  Niels „Shoe”
Meulman ,  Doze Green ,  Hera ,  Anthony Lister ,  Revok  or Blek le Rat – all of them are featured.

Banksy once said about Blek le Rat: „Whenever I feel like I have this unique idea, it turns out Blek
le Rat did something similar two decades ago”. One of the viewers asked the whether he feels bitter
because he’s not the most famous, although his contribution to street art was so great. Blek le Rat
denied, argumenting that Banksy’s popularity brought him more recognition too. He thinks, that the
success of one street artist is beneficial to the whole community, and therefore it’s a reason to be

Ben Eine also got to answer the fans’ questions, although reluctantly. Ben is known for painting
huge letters and for the way he mixes colors. He used to paint with Banksy in Palestine. He brought
an important thing to the discussion, saying he’s ainting for all people and hates to see his works
stolen, but at the same time acknowledges, that it’s the only way for his works to survive. He’s
regarding graffiti as inferior, stating that „graffiti is crap, while his works are true art”. When some
lady protested, he asked, whether she’d like to have one of his works at home or just some random,
shitty gangsta tags. This proves, that even among experts, opinions may vary.

John Nation, dubbed „the godfather of Bristol street art”, was also a guest at the screening. In the
80s and 90s, Nation was doing courses for kids at the local youth center. These kids grew up to be
artists themselves. On the 20 th March 1989, John Nation and his proteges were arrested during the

infamous Anderson Operation, launched against graffiti artists. He stood up to defend the kids he’s
been teaching. After that incident, it took him years to regain the people’s trust an reputation of a
social activist.
These two works on street art are but a tip of the iceberg. Nevertheless, they are worth mentioning
and should persuade people to search for more street art on their own. Just take a look around. All
these colorful murals are for us to enjoy.

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