From Style Writing to Art

A Street Art History

By Museum of Street Art

New York Graffiti, Stephane Bisseuil, 1994, From the collection of: Museum of Street Art
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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…

Seen, Seen, From the collection of: Museum of Street Art
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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.

Stay High 149, Stay High 149, From the collection of: Museum of Street Art
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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.

Seen by SeenMuseum of Street Art

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.

Futura - The Clash (1981) by FuturaMuseum of Street Art

“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

Space Invader, Space Invader, From the collection of: Museum of Street Art
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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…

Space Invader by Space InvaderMuseum of Street Art

Blek Le Rat, Tmwwttw, London, 2008 (2008) by Blek le RatMuseum of Street Art

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.

JR by JRMuseum of Street Art

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.

L'Atlas, in situ intervention at the BIAC Biennale by L'AtlasMuseum of Street Art

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

Vhils by VhilsMuseum of Street Art

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)—

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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