Street art is by no means monolithic. Militant street art advocates frontally against cultural hegemony, which paves also the way for a plurality of cultural expressions. Opposing commercial publicity and cultural public policies, some street artists create artwork in public scenes with no particular financial objective. Some of them engage into political or societal militancy, others do not. However, all militant street artists remain out of commercial sphere.
A growing number of street artwork entails a commercial dimension. The visual impact of street art and more particularly its capacity of attraction are increasingly acknowledged by the business sector. Thus, street artists are invited to paint and create on commercial places – restaurants, shops. In Athens, shop awnings are much used for street art, which opens a fascinating art gallery outside business hours.
Are we witnessing a contemporary form of cultural philanthopy or a pernicious merchandising of culture ? Let’s face it : street artists face living expenses like you and me. Furthermore, corporate or private philanthropy has helped major artists to grow and to blossom since centuries. Thus, I can live with the trend as long as artists are able to safeguard enough independence in the creative process.
For sure, street art is getting more and more popular. There are organised tours of street art, including in Athens, during which some artists or connoisseurs present and explain pieces of street art. I did not attend any of them in Athens, to rely on online research and foremost on in-depth crisscrossing of selected neighbourhoods.
Non-militant street art draws nurtures a deep sense of visual attractiveness, including aesthetics. It calls for your attention to an evocative facet of our lifestyle. It may further invite you to a fantasy world – different, better, nicer then our own lives. To do so, it draws on a variety of inspirational styles including folk and conceptual arts.
Topic-wise, love occupies a pivotal role in street art. The latter calls for keeping love in the heart of our individualist societies. In Athens, the theme is treated with much sensitivity. I allowed myself to add some additional touches of humour.
Street artwork displayed in Athens is fond of references to key scientific, art or sport figures. I met Einstein many times, and even Dali in a corner. Humour-full, it likes revisiting iconic pieces of visual art.
Street art likes creating parallel worlds; pedestrians in Athens need to be wary of threatening creatures or warriors from other galaxies. Luckily, angels watch also for your safety.
Street art represents all together a creative act, an expression of freedom of expression, a powerful vector to reach out large audiences, and sometimes a possible form of vandalism.
In recent years, street art has become not only common in urban settings but also increasingly socially appreciated, and even used commercially. It remains that it often trespasses the legal boundaries related to the respect of public or private property.
To me, street art represents a major form of artistic expression, a cristalline mirror of society, and a powerful catalyst for societal changes. I trust that we will spare space for quality street artwork in our cities for the decades to come.
Regards from Athens,
© 2018 COUPS D'OEIL ET COUPS DE PLUME