By: Bill Alverson
The term “contemporary art” refers to any art produced in the present at any given point throughout history. Today, most scholars and museums of contemporary art use the term to describe art produced since World War II. Street art, one particular style of contemporary art, is a hybrid of graffiti and murals that seeks to place art into a non-art context.
Street art distinguishes itself from graffiti by straying away from traditional territorial markings or corporate leanings that are increasingly characterizing the art form. Instead, street artists attempt to explore relevant social and political themes in contexts unfamiliar to the world of art. Many street artists deal with themes of subversion, private property, and government ubiquity in their works. Above all, street art seeks to utilize public space as a gallery for artists who feel alienated from traditional display arenas. To display their works, street artists often place themselves at risk of citation or arrest.
Street art techniques vary from artist to artist, with styles such as mosaic tiling, stenciling, stickering, and street installations. Usually placed in highly visible places throughout major cities, street art is often provocative and leads to government intervention to remove it. As a result, a large number of street artists choose to remain anonymous. A number of major cities around the world have become popular destinations for street art, including Berlin, London, Sao Paolo, Melbourne, Paris, and New York City.
One of the most famous street artists in the world, known as Banksy, earned a reputation as a stencil artist on the streets of England. A satirist with highly subversive leanings, Banksy has displayed his art in such wide-ranging locations as London, Paris, Berlin, New York City, and Los Angeles. One of Banksy’s most recognizable works, a stencil of a floating girl holding balloons, appeared on the Israeli West Bank wall. In 2010, Banksy produced a street art documentary called Exit Through the Gift Shop, which centered on Thierry Guetta, a filmmaker and street artist known as Mr. Brainwash. In the film, Guetta becomes an accomplice of Banksy and stages a wildly successful art show within six months of beginning his career as an artist.