INSPIRED by New York City Street Art
New York City is a veritable treasure trove of art on the streets. Manhattan, in general, has blossomed with gritty graffiti and professionally painted murals as an artistic form of self-expression since the ‘80’s. But this growth has, over the past few years, become seemingly exponential. Visual artists of every stripe, culture and color are brought in from all around the world, commissioned by a mushrooming number of street art non-profits, to create newsworthy and notable urban masterpieces.
Has street art gone from being fringe to mainstream in Manhattan?
Some masterpieces are quietly tucked away in ally’s and under bridges. Illegally painted, sometimes in just a day or hours. An approaching police car may have forced the artist to scurry away in obscurity only to return later to complete the work, without pay.
Other masterpieces, however, are loudly pronounced and living large upon vast and tall, concrete walls. Manifested in plain, unapologetic view. City permits are issued, fees paid, sidewalks cordoned off and scaffolding erected. All this, perhaps even while the process filmed for YouTube or the nightly news with those same police standing guard. Artists are sanctioned, not condemned. Perhaps they even pause to take a celebrity selfie shot with some grateful tourists. At peace to contemplate their next brush while sipping their Starbucks.
It would seem that the old days of vilifying street artists and deriding their artistic contributions is coming to an end, if not already largely over. Like it or not, building owners and neighbors are increasingly embracing and controlling the process. Bringing this trend mainstream.
It helps that gawkers and tourists flock from around the world to see New York City's street art. Official (and unofficial) art installations are a factor increasing foot traffic, the value of neighborhood commerce and real estate. Galleries and auction houses are selling former street art installations for increasingly larger sums. What was once considered an eye sore and curse to the local community has come a long way in terms of value, popularity and prestige.
If art is in the heart of New York City, then is street art its spirit?
One of the beauties of street art is that it can reside in almost any nook or back alley but, then, disappear or be transformed. Because it cannot be confined makes street art somewhat difficult to find. I recommend visiting street art on your own at least once before you buy a ticket and join the masses for a walking or bus tour with one of several tour operators specializing in street art. Take these installations in without any filters or preconceived notions can inspire an internal, or external, dialog on their meaning or significance as they were meant to do. The tour operators are a terrific next step in giving you insight into the backstory of these works and additional inspiration.
My first stop, simply because I am a fan of Harlem, would be Graffiti Hall of Fame located on Madison Avenue. It is known as one of the most iconic street art spots in New York City. Activist “Sting Ray” Rodriguez is reported to have founded the space back in 1980. Harlem’s infamous Crack is Wack is a double-sided mural on 128th Street and Harlem River Drive illegally painted by Keith Haring as a response to the crack-cocaine epidemic in New York at the time. It dates to 1986 and was recently restored by NYC.
One has to admire the L.I.S.A. Project NYC for all its support. This non-profit organization has commissioned some amazing murals located on and around Mulberry Street, greatly forwarding street art tourism in the area. The Little Italy neighborhood is one of Manhattan’s first mural districts with captivating art. Some of the most recent public works were created by Sonny Sundancer (whose’s mural of a tiger and, more recently, a lion are just jaw dropping. click any artists name here to see and learn more), Shepard Fairey and BKFOXX. Tristan Eaton's mural inspired by the Manhattan legend herself, Audrey Hepburn, there is on the corner of Mulberry and Broome Street. His work, Big City Dreams, is just another example of his mastery.
The 100 Gates Project (click the link for a map) is a collaboration with the Lower East Side Business Improvement District with the brilliant idea of transforming the neighborhood into an open-air gallery that would emerge at night once the local businesses have closed. There are over 100 gates completed and more in the works. Located on and around Orchard Street, it’s a must see on your way to one of the many cool bars in the neighborhood.
Goldman Global Arts- in 1982, Keith Haring placed his first mural on the sprawling concrete walls. For years it was an open source of illegal graffiti and various works. Over the years, there have been many murals here at the Houston Bowery Wall located at 76 East Houston Street. In recent years, the murals have been sanctioned and acclaimed artists from all across the globe have been enlisted to produce captivating street art on the wall. Retna, Kenny Scharf and Ron English (famous for, among many others, his representations of baby hulks) are just a handful of artists who have participated in the public art program.
Also tucked in the heart of the Lower East Side, Freeman Alley is a hidden gem for perusing street art. Artists such as ASVP, Army of One, as well as Hanksy have added their artwork to the brick facade of buildings in the elusive pathway. The most recent mural is James Goldcrown’s Love Wall which features a colorful collage of spray-painted hearts. I highly recommend the Freeman Alley Restaurant, a perfect cozy little Colonial American tavern at the end of this alley located in Freeman Alley off Rivington Street between Chrystie and the Bowery. It's a perfect spot for a classic Keirin NYC Sunday Brunch ritual with friends.
The High Line in NYC is an elevated park where you can not only get captivating views of lower Manhattan, but also spot a slew of striking street art. Art collective Friends of the High Line has invited artists from all parts of the world to place their artwork on the walls of buildings located near the walkway.
As the allure and prestige of street art continues to grow and beguile the public and art world, one can only hope that just about every abandonned , grotesque lot and boring back wall becomes beautified, transformed either by nature or street art. There is something magical, meaningful and meditative contemplating one's navel while gazing upon a wall of ivy or art.
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Author: Mona Maine de Biran
Manhattan Minds is an inspired blog on New York City Art, Beauty, Fashion and Lifestyle. You are invited to share your comments on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn and a link to this article using the easy icons below.
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Photo Credit to Street Artist NYC