European Street Art and Artists

In this Expedition, we’ll roam the streets of some of Europe’s cities and towns in search of street art. The work of street artists proliferates across the continent and sometimes takes gargantuan proportions. Street artists bear visual witness to realities of modern urban life.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Catching the Street Art Wave

We are in Rome, Italy, smiling at the mural ‘Fish’n’Kids’, by Agostino Iacurci. Like all the best street art, the work imaginatively incorporates the features of its building and fulfils its purpose (in this case, to draw attention to a fishmonger’s). 

Notice the fish-framed windows and the white hands that suggest columns. Notice also the tags spray-painted on the lower part of the mural. They are a reminder that street art is always impermanent.

About Agostino Iacurci

Agostino Iacurci is an Italian artist who makes large, whimsical murals in bright colours and simple shapes. He has earned commissions for buildings around the world. He also works in other media. Iacurci lives in Rome and Nuremberg.

Art People Can Live With

Street art is a living art form, one that people enjoy living with. Notice the washing that has been hung to dry outside the fish windows, and imagine the pleasure people get as they drive by or stop to buy.

Modern Art from Ancient Times

We’re in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, France, along the Rue Jenner, near the National Library of France, and we’re viewing a striking work by Spanish artist David La Mano. It’s a simple, modern work that evokes Paleolithic times.

La Mano, who works in many formats besides murals, is known for his stark black and white images, often made of many human silhouettes. This work meets a goal of most street art: to add humanity to the scene.

Figures from the Stone Age

The image is composed of dozens of silhouettes of human figures, moving, sometimes dancing in the same direction and eventually merging to become one human face. The images, based on ancient art, evoke the ghosts of our Paleolithic ancestors.

Interloper

The word ‘Cost’ to the left of the profile was not part of La Mano’s mural. ‘Cost’ is the tag of street artist Adam Cole, who is from New York—street artists tend to leave something of themselves behind wherever they go.

Giant Faces in Rome

We are in Rome, Italy, wondering about the work of Blu, a man of mystery who is one of the best-known street artists in Europe. This work wraps around two sides of the building and shows the artist’s masterful use of spray paint and house paint. 

Blu is known for his bold modern images that are both entertaining and thought-provoking. He makes use of many visual ideas from comic books, movies, and other forms of popular art. His skill and style have influenced many street artists around the world.

Integration with Architecture

Notice how the artist incorporates the building’s features by creating eyebrows protruding over the windows and painting cheeks on the old doors. Such touches of whimsy amuse us while humanizing the building. Blu’s art has imagination on a large scale.

A Mysterious Presence

Blu is a pseudonym for an artist who is notorious for working anonymously and avoiding interviews. Blu often collaborates with other street artists. He works in many other media and is active on social networks.

Contagious Art

Across the street from Blu’s artwork, other murals have started appearing on boarded up store windows. That’s a common phenomenon—one piece of street art inspires other artists to add more.

An Unplanned Collaboration

We are in Rome, Italy, on a modest street that is a major attraction for lovers of street art. The installation began with a row of black and white portraits on a long red wall.

A year later a wall across the street acquired a row of portraits of people staring at the first portraits. Street art invites this kind of response from other artists. It is an open, collaborative form of expression.

Wall of fame - particular (2010) by JB RockOutdoor Project

Celebrities on the Street

‘The Wall of Fame’, a mural by JB Rock, honours the people who have most influenced the artist. The mural is more than 60 metres long, and the portraits are arranged in alphabetical order, starting with Alighieri Dante and ending with Zorro.

Black & White Power 2010 - working progress (2010) by Sten LexOutdoor Project

Ordinary People Watching

This work by Sten&Lex, entitled ‘Black & White Power’, appears on the wall across the street from the ‘Wall of Fame’. It’s a gallery of ordinary people, now immortalized because they are contemplating the important celebrities in front of them.

About the Artists

Sten&Lex are known around the world for their use of stencils. Their bold black and white designs look like huge textiles and decorate very large buildings. J.B. Rock produces poster and stencil art, often in elaborate tattoo-like patterns.

Music Icons in Brighton

We’re in Brighton, England, standing before a 3-story-high mural painted by REQ and Sinna 1 in 2013. Created with spray paint, the image memorializes famous musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, John Peel, Amy Winehouse and Freddy Mercury. 

The pub’s owner chose the musical icons (all deceased) who now attract tourists to the establishment and neighbourhood. The picture of two male police officers kissing (directly under Elvis Presley) recreates a work by famous street artist Banksy that once adorned the pub.

About the Artists

REQ and Sinna 1 are active in the street art community in Brighton and on the worldwide scene through social media. Banksy is world-famous while remaining anonymous—there are many theories about who he might be.

Banksy versus Blank

This view explains at a glance what street art is all about, why it offends some people, and why it is necessary. The immortal dead both enliven their own wall and comment on the blank, bland wall across the street.

Street Art in Shoreditch

We’re standing on Change Street in London, strolling around a living museum of street art. The Shoreditch area of London is an example of how street art is a social as well as artistic phenomenon. Street artists tend to cluster. 

The more street art there is in a given place, the more tourists visit it, which attracts more artists and then even more visitors. Eventually, with everyone snapping and posting digital images, the place assumes its own identity.

A Hedgehog by ROA

The giant hedgehog on the left is by ROA, a street artist from Belgium. He is known for painting animals in a realistic style, especially rodents, insects, and (in this case) an insectivore. He painted this piece in 2012.

Two Germans

There are 2 separate murals along this stretch of street. The first is by Reka, a street artist based in Berlin. The rainbow-hued building beyond was painted by MadC, a.k.a. Claudia Walde, another artist based in Germany.

Collaborative and Antisocial Efforts

Great street art adds interest to and enlivens a neighbourhood. It helps people feel that they own the streets, since the art is there for them to enjoy. These scrawled tags have a different impact. 

Epic Animals for a Public Art Project

We are in Rome, Italy, amused and amazed by the work of Italian street artist Hitnes. The work, painted in 2015 on 6 buildings, shows huge totem animals and their attendants. The animals guard Giulietto Minna Park and the streets nearby.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the size of these works, but look closely at the realistic detail. The art is all the better for its admirable purpose: toad beauty to a rundown, crime-ridden neighbourhood.

About the Artist

Hitnes is an Italian artist who is known for his paintings of animals, especially birds. In addition to making street art, Hitnes works as an illustrator, printer, and teacher. His work has surreal qualities and is lush with detail.

Sanba Street Art Project

The Hitnes murals are part of the Sanba Project, an ongoing initiative. (Sanba stands for Street Art at San Basilio.) Street artists Liqen and Agostino Iacurci have also painted murals for the programme.

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