Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Banksy Nose Nothing

Many moons ago Banksy came up with a fairly comical visual joke involving a policeman and a line of coke, the policeman would be stencilled on wall and a meandering line of white paint would be dribbled on the streets. Wry chuckles all around at The Snorting Copper.

Snorting Copper, Curtain Rd, London - By Martin Bull - 18.3.2006
photo: Martin Bull, 2006

One of these existed in a narrow alleyway off Curtain Road in Shoreditch, it was heavily jet washed in May 2006 but in September 2006 the white line of coke was still quite clear, as demonstrated by the-artist-formerly-known-as-little-miss-no-lions who “walked the line”. It went from the copper’s nostril, down Mills Court alleyway and then disappeared down a drain nearby in Charlotte St.

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Mills Court 2006

Hot news is that developers who acquired the derelict property bounded by the wall the snorting copper was painted on have re-discovered the lost and forgotten Banksy work of art! We had an ominous feeling about this when we spotted a section of framed brickwork wall on the building site in Autumn 2015.


The news first became public in a slightly curious way back in August and the media outlet with the full scoop was The Guardian as it often is with Banksy matters though I must confess to possibly having blown the chance for a little insider insight into the project a bit before that. Hey-ho, no regrets!

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Finally, a couple of months on from that preliminary teaser the Snorting Copper was revealed during last week's London art festival week, and what a pristine specimen of Banksy street art it appears to be!

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Mills Court, October 2017

The developers who brought the property cut the wall out and shipped it to restorers who did their job and the brickwork is now back in place, albeit protected indoors, at the original site.

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Curtain Road/Mills Court, October 2017

In the press the developers talk commendably of their excitement at possessing an original street Banksy and of their desire to make it visible to everyone, while the restorers talk briefly of the restoration process, stripping back layers of paint until they found Banksy’s paint.

That vagueness draws a veil over a minor miracle for the art restorer has managed to go from something that back in 2006 had been blasted back to bare brick over most of its surface to something that looks like Banksy might have sprayed it last night – with thanks to Martin Bull for this photo.

Jet washed Snorting Copper, Curtain Rd, London - By Martin Bull - 17.5.2006
Photo copyright Martin Bull, 2006

The condition of the Banksy certainly did not improve with age, here is a photo I took of a glorious portrait of friend and truly awesome New York street art photographer Luna Park as rendered by Elbow Toe, there is barely a trace of paint left on the brickwork, indeed judging by the noticeably reduced amount of grey paint and the loss of substantially more of the copper it appears that a further spray-jetting took place between the taking of these two photos.

"Luna Park" by Elbow Toe, 2007

The wall then changed appearance many many times over the years, including the occasionally complete buff.

Curtain Road, 2012

"Prostitutes and Junkies", K-Guy; Roses, Copyright (that's the artist's name, not an assertion of legal property ownership!); Space Invader LDN_78; 2008

The restoration and sharing of this Banksy zombie at one level may be applauded but it is sadly flawed in one other major respect apart from its provenance, the copper no longer has a line of coke to snort!  That line of coke was an absolutely key element of Banksy’s artwork and its absence nullifies completely the dynamic of Banksy’s joke. I wonder if you gently scrap back the tarmac in the alleyway would you find Banksy’s original line – call a restoration company quick!

Among all the aspects the cause raised eyebrows a minor curiosity is that a fairly significant portion of the copper's left arm is missing.

One other thing that stretches credibility is the £1.25 million valuation given in August. Leaving aside a little chuckle at the common art world code words “just for insurance purposes”, it always embellishes an article about Banksy if you imply “look, this is graffiti shit but now it’s worth loadsamoney”. However, there is almost no supporting evidence to suggest that any Banksy should be valued at close to that amount. Banksy did a collaboration with Damien Hirst on canvas which sold at a charity event in New York arranged by Bono and Damien Hirst for USD1,870,000 which was then about worth about GBP980,000. This is his most expensive sale ever publicly recorded but the Hirst factor and the unhinged bidding that can take place at charity events make this an unreliable indicator of Banksy’s value.

I’m indebted to my great friend and co-blogger Shellshock aka Martin Bull for his insights and opinions and of course his photos. Martin devised the infamous Banksy Tours of 2006 and based on that research and experience went on to publish Banksy Locations and Tours Vols 1 and 2 which are most likely the source of the recorded location as mentioned in the Guardian’s August article, mind you that isn’t much of a commendation as article also contains an expert’s claim that no one knew where it was! Clearly quite a lot of us did.

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Snorting Copper, Leake St, 2006

All photos copyright Dave Stuart except as noted

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Stik In Time

Street art is by nature generally ephemeral but every once in a while a piece of street art thrives for years so it’s informative to see how those pieces fare.

Usually the things that enable a street art piece to survive are either plastic protection, as is occasionally the case for Banksy (2001) or inaccessibility, such as ROA’s Crane (2010) or Conor Harrington’s soldier (2008).

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ROA (feat a Stik that did not survive)

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Conor Harrington

London street artist Stik painted a stunning interracial couple holding hands at ground level in Shoreditch in 2010 which benefits from none of those things, so how does this piece endure so much that just last month it was ranked number 17 in the list of top favourite UK artworks ever! He’s sandwiched between Anish Kapoor and Maggi Hambling and hasn’t been heard complaining.

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Beginning at the beginning, Stik being a savvy and nice person sought to ensure that the local Muslim community would not be offended by his intended composition, in fact to assist those of us not tuned into the relevant sensitivities Stik displayed a couple of pages explaining that his representation of a Muslim girl in a niqab and a white guy, the tendency is to presume Christian, did not breach the writings of the Koran which in simple terms forbids creating realistic images of human beings.

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Work In Progress, May 2010


"Flat two-dimensional illustrations, deliberately unrealistic, no illusion of depth"

It is not surprising that the obvious significance of the painting with its message of harmony and integration makes it cherished within the very strong local Muslim community but it is particularly encouraging that it also resonates with the wider UK population according to a national vote (a survey of 2000 consenting adults to be accurate).

Over time the couple has endured a variety of embarrassing embellishments ranging from comedy anatomical adornments to taggers seeking cheap fame through tagging up such an immensely popular piece of art. Every once in a while Stik may pass by and restore the artwork, which after all comprises comparatively simple solid blocks of colour.



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One of the most amusing interactions was Art Is Trash’s 2014 additions showing the white guy apparently putting out some anthropormorphic rubbish.

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Art Is Trash

DRSC0 from Portland Oregon placed a pair of stickers holding hands in homage to Stik’s piece across the road on the back of a road sign.

DRSC0 (2016)

One quite stunning homage to Stik’s couple came from the unknown artist who placed a pair of complementary “grotesques” in juxtaposition with Stik’s couple rather than actually on them. Unknown artist we salute you, that was brilliant.

Stik and grotesques

Most recently, visiting South African artist Falko made a major adjustment to Stik’s classic by adding a bonsai elephant (the word pygmy really doesn’t do justice to the obvious contrast in scale). By adding an elephant to the couple holding hands Falko has taken on a quite iconic piece of art - 17th favourite! - quite a bold move for someone whose art we don’t recall seeing on these shores before. In an interview with Graffoto Stik generously described Falko’s intervention as a forced enhancement. Stik knows how the game plays with street art, nothing is sacred (no pun intended) so he hasn’t flounced down to Princelet St in a fit of pique to make good the additions, though it will happen eventually.

Stik c/w Falko
Falko vs Stik

In a particularly energetic burst Falko added quite a herd of elephants in Shoreditch in a very short period of time.

Beauty And The Beast, feat art by Falko

Falko’s addition provokes curious thoughts: is there a religious significance the elephant? Well an elephant would be considered haram under Islamic principals so the elephant is not going to be eaten for sure, it must be some kind of pet elephant albeit a bloody small one. The simple leash Falko has added binds the elephant to the couple, without that it would just be a small elephant superimposed on a couple holding hands so the lead is very important. Closer inspection suggests the elephant might be holding a marker pen in its trunk, perhaps the elephant is colouring in the background to Stik’s work, in a way signalling to us that Falko did actually to the restoration work this time around. Clever that, and is that a knowing little wink that the elephant is giving us?


A more academic blogger might be tempted to call this post a longitudinal study of a single point in space but Graffoto is too horizontal for that. [do not insert weak stik pun here do not insert weak stik pun here do not Stik weak insert pun here]


Stik homepage 

Falko Instagram 

All photos: Dave Stuart

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Banksy on Brexit - About Time

Another year, another Banksy, at last! The port of Dover, the continent’s gateway to the UK, found itself the proud home of the latest outdoor street art masterpiece by Banksy. A huge version of the EU flag with a worker chipping away at one of the 12 stars greets inland arrivals coming into the port on the main road from London.

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The work is classic Banksy in so far as it is political and humorous, it is on the street and it is topical. It is also superbly executed, both in its large scale and in its minor details.

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When it reveals itself to you from about ¾ mile away on the hill descending into Dover, its audacious scale and visibility is quite breath taking. This isn’t tucked away on a back street facing somewhere anonymous, you simply can’t miss it (didn’t get a photo of that view – concentrating on driving and not interrupting the massive flow of British trade to Europe on all those lorries). I’ll wager by the end of this year this could be one of the most viewed single works of art in the country, perhaps even the World [subject to it lasting a reasonable length of time].


Close up the attention to detail is awesome. Check the drop shadows on the chipped off pieces of the stars, look also at the cracks, they are stunningly painted and close up you can see each crack represented by two contrasting lines very precisely drawn alongside each other.

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Graffiti and street art is all the more impressive when the key question “how the hell did they do that?” comes to mind. One possibility here is that Banksy might have commissioned a third party to execute the painting based on his concept and sketches, this was the technique he used in New York in 2010 when a company called Colossal Media were contracted to paint four massive Banksys, photos below from my great friend in NY Luna Park.

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Banksy, NY, 2010. photo courtesy: Luna Park

banksy (in progress)
Colossal Media work-in-progress for Banksy, NY, 2010. photo courtesy: Luna Park

Another possibility would have been to project the image onto the wall then paint using the projected image as the guide. The straight edges of the flag are so crisp and straight and to the naked eye appear perfectly horizontal and vertical so this wasn’t hastily knocked up in a few quick minutes up a ladder but using a projector would have meant painting in full view of passersby which is hard to imagine Banksy doing.

There are reports of reports on social media that scaffolding was seen against the wall suggesting that the same method used to paint “Shop Till You Drop” just off New Bond St in London was used. Basically crew set up scaffolding, wrap tarpaulin around it, Banksy (presumably) works anonymously shielded from the glare of public view and after he’s done and left, down comes the scaffolding et voila! (It’s important to slip some French into this post).

Banksy. Or Not?  Pt II
Shop Till You Drop, London 2011

The subject of the work is clear, it’s about Britain leaving the EU but is the piece perhaps a bit ambiguous? Is the worker a “Leave” supporter taking great delight in symbolically destroying the EU or are his actions showing us how devastating the course the UK is seemingly irretrievably embarked upon is, in other words pro-Remain. Context is everything with Banksy and his views are pretty clear if you think back to art he put up in Calais in 2015: Steve Jobs as an immigrant; a child gazing through a telescope across the channel to England but a vulture (death) perches on the telescope; and his “We’re not all in the same boat”, a raft borrowed from “The Raft Of The Medusa” by ThĂ©odore GĂ©ricault gets blanked by a passing superyacht. The issue was the refugee crisis but the message was "more humanitarian compassion" meaning open boarders, Banksy is pretty clearly pro EU. Ironically this new work is not a representation of one country being removed from the EU flag as the stars do not represent individual countries. Leaving aside theories of the occult and paganism, the stars are arranged in a circle to represent unity, a unity which is being shattered by this worker.

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We're Not All In The Same Boat

Steve Jobs

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Above 3 photos: Banksy, source Banksy Website

Timing is a bit of an issue since the decisive vote which lead to our latest Prime Minister changing her mind completely from “remain” to “a red, white and blue Brexit” was 11 months ago. Brexit is central to our current general election process but only to the extent that the PM seeks a mandate to do as much damage as she can without subsequent recourse to the population. Banksy’s mural seems to be more timely if considered in the context of the French presidential election which reached its climax this weekend as the eminently sensible French electorate chose a centrist pro EU president rather than a far right candidate hell bent on wreaking further disunity and harm to the EU. “Electorate”, “Sensible” and “French” appearing in the same sentence, wow! It must also be said that the Brexit result inspired quite a tsunami of “remain” orientated Brexit art, including ones with similar ideas of missing stars in the EU flag.

Pure EVil website 255cc159aa64df4e-QE2EUprintSM
Pure Evil QE2EU - courtesy Pure Evil

The placement of this piece is magical. Dover is defined in its present and its history by this country's relationship with the continent, whether that means trade, migration, vacation or war. Almost no one passes through Dover without registering that this is a point of departure, arrival and communication and it is all about the short cross sea link to France. It is hard to imagine a place in the UK where a Brexit piece could resonate more with its surroundings.

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Although the art is unsigned we can confidently attribute this to Banksy as photos of it have now appeared on his website. To digress for a moment, I scoffed initially when news outlets said Banksy had posted a photo on his official instagram account as Banksy doesn’t do social media but I just noticed his FAQ page says “Banksy is NOT on Facebook, Twitter…”, no mention of instagram. Some of the elements of the composition are vaguely familiar from previous Banksy works. The workman dressed in dungarees with a bucket echoes the wallpaperer in Banksy’s famous provocation of Robbo back in 2009.

Banksy wallpaper graffiti
Robbo 1985/ Banksy 2009; London

The ladder echoes the ladder Banksy painted on the Palestine wall although that was meant to be a childlike chalk drawing of a ladder, not the elaborate drop-shadowed two coloured ladder in Dover.

The clever drop shadowing of the crumbling stars elegantly lifts those falling fragments away from the wall, rather like the shadowing you can see Banksy employing in “Shop Till You Drop” above.

Early reports of this new work came from The Guardian and the BBC’s website, it seems that these two institutions have a very reliable inside track on new Banksy scoops. The news broke on Sunday, coincidentally at the same time my wife and I were down in that part of the world staying in Rye and visiting Dungeness.  Just over a year ago I used someone else’s “bad science” to prove I was Banksy. Someone else came up with the theory that either Robert del Naja or indeed the whole of Massive Attack are Banksy; now I am not Massive Attack and I am pretty sure I am actually not Banksy either. However, in December 2011 we went en famille (bit more French there) to Liverpool for a QPR away game and lo! the Love Liverpool airplane appeared that day. Coincidence again? Or is my wife actually Banksy? Ha! Didn’t see that coming did ya? If I find any dodgy APs (artist proofs) of early print releases, I’ll let you know via the usual channel – eBay.

Banksy - plane love

Photos: Dave Stuart except Luna Park, Pure Evil and Banksy website where noted

Monday, 2 January 2017

So 2016

2016 wasn’t all bad and neither was its street art. This is a small selection of the street art from 2016 that made me go "yummmmmmmm"

So 2016... It Was A Very Good Year - writer unknown
writer unknown

Street artists come and street artists go but a few have been consistently active over many years since the early days. Some of the elder statesmen of today’s street art scene surprise us when we hear tell of their colourful pasts, a bit like hearing of the older aunt who turns out to have been quite a racy “item” in her day. Here’s a selection of those solid ol’ faithfuls who continued to produce strong work true to their original incarnations and involvement.

A.CE made amends for a very quiet 2015 with a comparatively prolific streak of collaged pop art.

So 2016... A.CE London
A.CE London

The 18th wave of Space Invader’s London invasions beamed down onto London’s walls in the Spring.

So 2016... Space Invader
Space Invader

On the subject of Space Invaders, one of the oddest things we came across this year was the “reactivation” of ancient space invaders who had deserted their posts, in May this year missing-in-action invaders started to reappear on duty. A bunch of guys working with the nod from Space Invader have been sourcing the tiles, assembling the images and reinstating lost Space Invaders back where they belong. A few weeks back Graffoto got the first interview with the UK Reactivation team, let’s hear it for fan power!

So 2016... Space Invader LDN_09 reactivated
Space Invader LDN_09, reactivated & monitoring cafe chillin moments in Covent Garden

Eine is back in London after years in alien places like the south coast (UK) and west coast (USA), plenty of large colourful shutterfont letters as well as the odd naughty throw have been popping up around London.

So 2016... Eine, Last Days Of Shoreditch
Eine, Last Days Of Shoreditch

In what was a relatively quiet year for him, Banksy did at least get something political and illegal up on London’s streets, his first London street art for a number of years.

So 2016... Banksy

Artists familiar and new produced heaps of street art throughout the year, which is an apt way perhaps to describe the ephemeral trash sculptures Sell Out constructed from bin bags, tape and whatever other “downcycled” materials he found to hand. His sculptures often symbolize figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment as well as tributes to dead people, this year Sell Out immortalised Terry Wogan, Freddie Mercury, Jesus, David Bowie and Prince.

So 2016... Sell Out
Terry Wogan by Sell Out

Sell Out created this trash tribute to very undead football hero Gareth Bale. As a Welshman himself, Sell Out seemed to struggle to get over Wales’ stumble at the semi final stage of the Euros as his prolific output dropped significantly in the second half of the year. Never mind Sell Out, imagine how you’d have felt if you had been knocked out by Iceland ;-)

So 2016... Gareth Bale by Sell Out
Gareth Bale by Sell Out

PS – Sell Out, a sheep? Really?? Ha ha.

Every now and again Shoreditch acquires a piece of street art which deserves to become iconic. This year Shoreditch got another such piece when Stik created a trio of signature stik characters on what estate agents might describe as a landmark Shoreditch wall. “Past, Present and Future” features characters looking wistfully towards old Shoreditch, staring straight out at current hip trendy Shoreditch and recoiling in alarm from future community-free de-humanised office wilderness Shoreditch. It even had its own “making of” video. This more than likely will endure as long as that wall remains upright (or at least until the next hotel or office block is built up against it).

So 2016...Stik "Past, Present and Future"
Stik "Past, Present and Future"

The ever dependable Mr Farenheit continued a steady stream of stencilled and collaged art on the streets including even the use of pistachio nut shells to create textured portraits impossible to photograph convincingly. In fact Mr Farenheit produced by a long way the most art from any single street artist we saw this year.

So 2016... Mr Farenheit
Mr Farenheit

So 2016.... Mr Farenheit
Mr Farenheit

Neonita created one of the year’s best interior shows with her immersive installation in the now disappeared Brixton Bloc (Thayle House) but one day I was very surprised to spy one of her characters looking tired eyed and illegal on a railway bridge. Neonita is a refined young lady so this was like finding your vicar slumped in the gutter with a bottle of Tequila flicking the Vees at strangers. The street art here wasn’t the pinnacle of artistic endeavour but I love being reminded of that wonderful show in January.

So 2016... Neonita

So 2016... Neonita
Neonia by Neonita, Jan 2016, reviewed HERE

The London Police have a category all to themselves - UK artists visiting London from abroad - and they put up some immaculate “Lads” stickers early in the year.

So 2016... London Police
The London Police

John D’oh had one of the best giggles of the year when building site workers removed some of his humorous political stencils in the misguided belief they were snagging a bunch of Banksys for themselves.

So 2016... John D'oh
John D'oh

The ever inventive 616 was sighted on seemingly fewer occasions this year but his knack for the novel hasn’t deserted him. Every other painter rocking up to decorate the Seven Stars Car Park off Brick Lane sees rectangular brick panels but 616 saw the potential in a series of buttresses to create an army of his tribal styled characters standing in line against the wall.

So 2016... 616

One of our top spraycan artists is Fanakapan and as well as putting in a top solo show at BMST Space, Fanakapan was prolific in churning out murals featuring chrome balloons andvarious characters and objects this year. I felt that the superb reflective photorealism of his chrome polished artefacts didn’t scale up that well when he took on the huge Village Underground wall but his recent letter X character in the Seven Stars car park looked stunning and cleverly chimed with Carleen De Sozer’s adjacent Malcolm X.

So 2016...  Malcolm X by Carleen De Sozer; Letter X by Fanakapan
Malcolm X by Carleen De Sozer; Letter X by Fanakapan

Anna Laurini brings a very graffiti kind of attitude to getting her cubist portraits up all across London, spotting an Anna Laurini somewhere a little bit away from the usual street art hot spots always brings admiration for both the art and the fact that she had the balls to put it in some fairly hot locations.

So 2016... Anna Laurini
Anna Laurini, Oxford Street, London

The real world spent 2016 screwing up many people’s faith in democracy. Disappointingly not much Brexit related art appeared in fact we seemed to have more political art related to Donald Trump than our own political careerists.

So 2016... Farage, Trump, Johnson - The Narcissists
Farage, Trump, Johnson - The Narcissists

Dr d. grabs attention on public surfaces with stridently political street art, he doesn’t offer wry social commentary or provide gentle exhortations for us to do better or try harder, Dr d. throttles your attention and gives your cosy political complacency a brutal kicking. Earlier this year he installed a a satellite dish and accompanying paste ups on someone else’s building, snarling at the evil of media moguls and anticipating Murdoch’s further quest to control the medium and the message as Sky merged with Fox.

So 2016.... Dr. d
Dr. d

One of the things that drew me into this culture when the scales fell from my eyes years ago and I realised that this wasn’t (just) vandalism was specifically the overt politicisation of street art and the heroic risks people took to find a space to public voice their political opinions. Dr d installed that satellite dish illegally on someone else’s building in broad daylight on Shoreditch High Street, there is even a video of him doing it and it strikes me as possibly the ballsiest street art disruption I saw this year.

Hackney Wick discovered its own Boudica as Aida led a fight to raise awareness of the destruction of the artistic community in Hackney Wick.

So 2016... Save Our Selves...Hackney Wick

Anyone who thinks street art as a vehicle for propagating political messages lacks drive and impact should check out the amount of impressive media coverage the Save Hackney Wick campaign has racked up this year, thanks in no tiny part to Aida’s efforts in pasting up her text based political street art and curating outside wall takeovers and indoor art shows.

Many other artists took advantage of street art’s media multiplication effect – sharing online in other words, including:

Dave The Chimp (always great to see Dave The Chimp back on London’s walls) raising awareness of sectarian discrimination in Iran where the Baha’I community is denied access to education.

So 2016... Dave The Chimp
Dave The Chimp

“Advertising Shits In Your Head” by Special Patrol Group was one of many adbusting takeovers on bus stops and the tube during the year. This campaign was one of two street art interventions that pivoted off crowd funding initiatives, in this case the bus stop hijackings were in support of a fundraiser to publish a book. This specimen in Islington was particularly photogenic.

So 2016... "Advertising Shits In Your Head" by Special Dog Patrol
Special Dog Patrol

Victoria Villasana and Zabou collaborated on this commission for the Child Labor Free campaign (Amercian organisation hence spelling).

So 2016... Victoria Villasana & Zabou
Victoria Villasana and Zabou

Every year sees new artists joining the street art kaleidoscope and new this year, to these eyes at least, was the elegant flow of JDK’s illustrations. Her wispy elongated figures contrasted beautifully with the grimey spots she usually chose for her street art.

So 2016... JDK

Speaking of Grime, Reuben Dangoor did his bit to elevate Grime artists, placing them in gilded frames and fine art contexts to give them the cultural props he feels they deserve. My favourite instance of these stately paste ups was this stunning collaboration with Mexican artist Victoria Villasana, the intricacy and colours of the embroidery showed Villasana at her best and transformed Reuben Dangor’s armour wearing Wiley beautifully.

So 2016... Victoria Villasana and Reuben Dangoor
Reuben Dangoor and Victoria Villasanna

Qwert from Hungary is presently based in London and his surreal but cute figures could be found wearing their hearts on their sleeve.

So 2016... Qwert

Most of the artists mentioned so far have fitted into category of artists often misleadingly described as “domestic”, some of them are anything but tame. London still is a major magnet for artists visiting from abroad so let’s salute a few of those who took the trouble to grace these shores and whose work took my breath away.

Jana and JS came to London to exhibit at StolenSpace and while here they put up some gorgeous mixed stencil and freehand self portraits, they’re work always does look wonderful on the streets and their gallery exhibition was a delight as well.

So 2016
Jana and JS

Shoreditch acquired a bug infestation when Philippe Vignal’s ceramic fleas bit Shoreditch passers by.

So 2016.... Philippe Vignal
Philippe Vignal

Zokatos does amazing drippy abstract art, I particularly enjoyed the introduction of characters escaping from the canvas such as his liberated ballerina shaking free from her canvas confines and pirouetting off up the wall and this resolution to the dilemma in Banksy’s “girl with balloon” classic in which the girl now attempts retrieval.

So 2016... Zokatos UHU
Zokatos UHU

A recent visitor to these shores was French artist Manyoly, her painterly ultra colourful portraits (mainly, there was one lovely monochromatic piece) look like they are painted directly onto the surface but are actually paste ups. I’m no expert in that kind of schizz but I imagine that pasting a rectangular piece of art is probably fairly routine but Manyoly’s paste ups are full of irregular serrated edges and protruding strips, one imagines they are much trickier to put up without bits folding over and sticking to eachother.

So 2016... Manyoly

Dan Witz brought another series of his phone box hacking installations to London in the Autumn, one of the biggest buzzes for me this year was completely unexpectedly spotting one of these while out hunting for another artist’s creations. The project this year was “Breathing Room”, Witz considers that our recent history of intolerance, atrocity, violence and death must be brought to an end, we need respite, so his phone box interventions show people of many faiths seeking inner calm and tranquility. This project was funded by a crowdfunding campaign, the second example I came across where crowd funding was a factor though in this one the project resulted from a successful fundraising, the "Advertising Shits In Your Head" mentioned earler was in support of an ultimately oversubscribed fund raising.

So 2016...  "Breathing Room", Dan Witz
"Breathing Room", Dan Witz

Arrex Skulls and Voxx Romana have been regular wall decorators in London for many years but this year they brought over a bunch of their street artist mates from Portland who participated in a group show at the excellent BSMT Space in Dalston and put up loads of street art all across London.  DRSC0 put up various pieces of art mainly (though not entirely) riffing on a theme of anatomical illustrations, I thought that the juxtaposition of this pair of small stickers with the Stik characters in the background was genius. Privately DRSC0 told me that it was not something he had consciously set out to achieve, in which case there was one heck of a lot of serendipity swirling around in the fingers that placed those stickers up.

So 2016... DRSC0 (Portland) vs Stik (representing London)
DRSC0 (Portland) vs Stik (representing London)

We also have to thank BSMT Space for hosting Brooklyn based Pyramid Oracle who pasted up some stunning portraits.

So 2016 Pyramid Oracle
Pyramid Oracle (on a beautiful weathered surface)

Another regular international visitor who returned to London was WRDSMTH, he came back in the Summer in the company of his LA friend Megzany. Together they proceeded to put up a lot of stencilled and paste up art in Shoreditch and over towards Covent Garden, I was particularly taken by this conversion of a phone box to a mermaid vending machine by Megzany.

So 2016... Megzany

So 2016... WRDSMTH

The days when street artists were almost always refugees and defectors from graffiti culture are long behind us, many artists these days emerge from a more traditional fine arts background and discover the streets as a gallery well into a career as “proper” artists. Two artists for whom this appears to be the case are Paul Robinson and David Gorriz, apologies to be issued and humble pie consumed if it turns out these guys were hardcore train bombers in days of yore.

So 2016... Laup
Textured furry pink bear – Laup

So 2016... David Gorriz
David Gorriz aka art_ripoff

Street art is a tremendously jumbled culture ranging from stickers to commercial murals, from permissioned hoardings to naughty billboard subversion and from full time world famous street artists to irregular hobbiests with a tiny paste up. All aspects and forms – even yes, tags on murals, are essential elements of the street art eco system. Why then do artists feel the need to cannibalise the culture? Shoreditch is full of permission spots where “proper” artists can paint without fear of arrest and indeed thanks to vigilant permission brokers, the number of these legal spots is increasing rapidly across London. The number of wilder spots where casual artists can get away with dabbling in street art knowing that the piece might last a little while thanks to either neglect or tolerance are few and diminishing.

Back in the day even large wall paintings on the whole were done without permission, check out Burning Candy getting busted on Bacon St in the early minutes of Exit Through The Gift Shop. Muralists might contemplate the fact that each time they take a spot where uncurated street art has been tolerated a small but important piece of the culture dies, street art is committing self inflicted hara-kiri. The supply of spots where building owners are willing to grant permission is still constantly expanding yet we are losing too many spots to sterile mural spots.

So 2016...
Hanbury St - lost to “change of use”, featuring Donk, Curly, Costah et al 2015

So 2016
Fashion Street lost to muralism Dec 2016; feat Mr Farenheit (Ger), Stikki Peaches (Can), lovepiepenbrink (Ger), D7606, T.wat (UK), Villasana (Mex), Oeps (Bel), Costah (Portugal)

So 2016...
Hanbury St (again) – to muralism Oct 2015; feat Don, My DogSighs, Endless and others

Then there’s the brilliant stuff that no amount of due diligence or frantic online searching will yield a culprit, unknown artist you are awesome we salute you!

Rough, wispy, gorgeous and – never figured out what the tag says:

So 2016

These huge colourful posters appeared in Shoreditch and across the West End, they may well be a subliminal advertising campaign but I was blown away seeing such fine art photography on the streets.

So 2016... Unknown

So 2016

The Flying Leaps "project" was one of the more novel forms of illegal fly posting seen this year. Fly posting is unlicensed advertising which aims to sell some kind of product. Flying Leaps’ fly posters didn’t promote a representation of a product, they were actually adverts for themselves, you could buy the advert! Artists whose work became available through this sort of display on the streets included KennardPhillipps (at last I have a signed Peter Kennard in my collection!), Michael Peel, Mark Titchner, Dolores de Sade, Peter Fish and as mentioned, Mustafa Halusi whose art I have admired indoors and out for several years.

So 2016...  Mark Titchener on Flying Leaps
Art on the right, advert on the left; Mark Titchener on Flying Leaps

So 2016... Mustafa Halusi
Mustafa Halusi, paste up courtesy Flying Leaps

Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the block. In late Summer Shoreditch’s infestation of mice became a little more arty when these static mice, some really drawing attention to themselves in their dayglo pigmented coats appeared frozen mid scurry up the walls, never found out who the mouse liberator was.

So 2016... Unknown

As I scan through the draft of this look back it seems that I have not selected a single piece of art painted on a shutter. To avoid neglecting shutters as a wonderful canvas for street art, lets add in this huge serpent by ThisOne, painted along an unoccupied parade of shops near Aldgate. This is possibly the largest shutter piece I have ever seen (not to damn it with faint praise, it is genuinely awesome).

So 2016... ThisOne

2016 – it was a very good year!

All Photos: Dave Stuart