When you think of London you think Big Ben, the Queen, Hyde Park, maybe the Imperial War Museum or Docklands – not an underground movement of urban art slowly crawling its way across the city like a politically colourful Japanese Knotweed. It’s time to see London differently, so set up base in the centre of the city and head out into the ever-changing world of London’s street art.
The street art scene is slowly but very surely taking over the pavements, walls and tube stations of the city – in almost every corner of every road and building you’ll be rewarded by Space Invaders and miniature heroes, political statements and Banksy wannabes (and Banksy himself, of course). Street art in London has only recently been recognised as art, probably thanks to Banksy and his blossoming worldwide fame, and is steadily progressing from being an impermanent and uncontrollable pest to a force to be reckoned with. However, this art of recklessness and anti-establishment is being lost behind panes of Perspex and a rise in legal walls around the city – it’s good to see that creativity is being appreciated, but can it really be controlled?
To get a glimpse of the originality that lurks in London, head to a dark alley called Blackall Street just off Old Street. You’ll find yourself under the glaring eyes of neon monsters, blushing whilst passing by an embracing couple and giggling at Stik men childishly scrawled on shutters. The remains of an Invader casually surveys the scene like a surreal CCTV camera and BOREDOM IS COUNTER REVOLUTIONARY loudly remarks the statement this street once subtly claimed.
Shoreditch is the place to go to find a mixture of London most appreciated al fresco art – from the weird and the wonderful, political and sickly sweet to outright rude, Shoreditch is a melting pot of imagination and vulgarity. Look out for samurais, Mickey Mouse and a giant hedgehog to get you going – and remember to keep an eye on the ground; you never know who you’ll see lurking on street corners. For the Banksy fans out there, London’s Shoreditch is the ideal starting point – you’ll find the evolved Pulp Fiction, the Rat Race and the Chopper all at home here, as well as designated graffiti areas around most corners and prying policemen fading and failing to stop the art revolution.
However, street art doesn’t have to be limited to 2D paintings on out-of-reach walls – Covent Garden is home to the Big Smoke’s best street artists. Here you can find a bunch of loud performers offering many laughs and gasps, all competing for your attention (and change) whilst you shop, eat and drink. To enjoy some in-the-flesh art in London, find a table outside one of Covent Garden’s hotels, sip on a cocktail, and be prepared to part with any loose change in your pocket.