1978 - 2014

From Style Writing to Art

Museum of Street Art

A Street Art History
“All you really see is the art of your own generation.” Léo Castelli

How did it all start? Where did this worldwide movement originated? How come a movement emerged so rapidly and largely? At the dawn of the twenty-first century a new movement was born…

In the late 60s, graffiti arrived in New York City, after an introduction on the Philadelphia side. Whatever the legend, no one really knows if it happened in a deliberate effort or as a spontaneous occurrence, but it seems it all started in Manhattan’s Washington Heights section.  Originating from the upper west side of Manhattan, most of the early writers used to add to their name a number reflecting the street they actually lived on, as in TAKI 183 or TRACY 168. Graffiti writers from the other boroughs also appeared quickly, such as LEE 163 from the Bronx, and FRIENDLY FREDDIE from Brooklyn.

Quickly such as STAY HIGH 149 brought the whole thing up, adding a key element: style. To the usual writing one would add ornaments like stars, crowns, arrows and even characters that would soon become legendary and meaningful.

Soon all the NYC trains are painted from top-to-bottom in a raging war for style recognition. Often referred to as “The man who invented modern graffiti”, SEEN is precocious and wildly creative. And while his name is easily recognizable in his works, his style is ever-changing.

“GRAFFITI IS MY LIFE, ALWAYS HAS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE!”  - SEEN aka The Godfather of Graffiti

As one can see, SEEN’s multi-layered backgrounds are extremely complex, combined to spray-canned softies that are as good as his best trains. His spraying strokes are technically perfect, and SEEN is able to express himself with ease.

“FOR ME THE TRANSITION WAS RAPID, ONE MINUTE WE WERE BOMBING TRAINS AND LIVING THE CULTURE, AND THE NEXT MINUTE BOOM.”   - FUTURA

In his artistic work, FUTURA’s approach is unique :  a futurist style to create an abstract universe in which he mixes drippings and clean-cut lines.

“YOU CAN’T SLEEP ON AN IDEA” - FUTURA

At the wake of the 90s suddenly the movement evoles. New types of signature appear. Writing then abstraction, and now concept. The message becomes the mean…

By the time we reach the early 80s, Graffiti is being labeled as Urban Art. And its illegal and clandestine aspects are inspiring a great number of artists. A light and humor-tinted approach appears in paintings, along with very new and interesting techniques, like stencils.

Street Art covers an extreme variety of techniques, allowing new approaches that go well beyond traditional graffiti and spray paint. At the turn of the twenty-first century new comers like JR take the street as the largest gallery in the world. An open sky museum for all.

After 40 years the movement shines by its constant renewal. Each signature is unique and a new quest.

Endlessly renewing the practice by creating  substance within the wall, VHILS shows that there is a future in the movement.

Credits: Story

Artists (in order of appearance) —
STAY HIGH 149
SEEN
FUTURA
SPACE INVADER
BLEK LE RAT
JR
Shepard FAIREY aka OBEY
L'ATLAS
VHILS
Curator — Magda Danysz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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