Attitudes to street art seem to be changing. I was taking a photo of some wall art in an alleyway just off Hoxton Street in Hackney when an old woman, carrying her shopping into a nearby housing estate, walked past. “Lovely init,” she said in a Cockney accent, “a nice bit of graffiti for a change.” We stood together, two amateur art critics, admiring a strange supernatural-themed piece of art for a moment. “Not my cup of tea”, I said, “but it brightens things up.”
We went our separate ways, and I walked towards Shoreditch High Street and Brick Lane. This area has changed dramatically over the last few years, and now hosts more painfully trendy, upmarket bars, restaurants and private members clubs than you can shake a stick at. Prices have shot up and the demographics of the area have changed accordingly. It’s still a haunt for street artists though, and the area’s walls provide a rich canvass for expression.
It’s an area that has had a long association with street art. When I lived in the area seventeen years ago it was home to numerous Banksy artworks, including a dribbled white line of paint along Curtain Road that led into an alleyway where a cocaine snorting policeman was painted on a wall. More famous were Banksy’s acid house policemen on the railway bridge over Old Street.
Like all of life’s transient pleasures, both vanished, removed by Hackney Council. You don’t see so many Banksy pieces any more, his fame has driven up their value and many have been torn from walls and sold. You do see a diverse range of other street artists though, and they have lent the area a new dynamism. So much so, that you’re fairly likely to bump into walking tours taking people around the area’s street art highlights.
Street art in Hackney was always complemented by commercial art. Hoxton Square was home to Jay Joplin’s White Cube gallery, which did much to encourage an infamous crop of Young British Artists like Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George, Anthony Gormley and Damien Hirst. The area is still home to plenty of independent art galleries, but rising property prices have pushed many young artists out of the area.
On Great Eastern Street, hoardings around building works had been turned into a temporary canvas. I took a few photos and noticed a security guard walking towards me. I thought I might be in trouble (some ridiculous companies report photographers to the police, or demand photos be deleted because of terrorism fears). It transpired that he just wanted a chat. He said the graffiti changed most nights, and thought the painting of a rabbit-person was the only interesting piece.
Later, in the streets surrounding Brick Lane, I came across a feast of ever-changing art. I bumped into a fellow street art aficionado, who turned out to be a lecturer at a Tel Aviv university. We compared notes from around the world, and agreed this area of London was pretty special. I made my way back along Brick Lane and, my day of street art spotting over, went to get a real ale in one of the area’s nicest pubs, The Carpenter’s Arms.
9 thoughts on “Street art in London’s East End”
Wow this is really amazing! I love the one where it says less cleaning and more street art haha… Thanks for sharing 🙂
If you have time, please check out my latest post about Brick &Liquor Cocktail bar – https://tootinghustle.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/brick-and-liquor-in-review/ and let me know what you think!
Happy blogging! x
Thanks, and good luck with the blog. It’s been a long time since I visited Tooting!
Reblogged this on Equinoxio and commented:
I’ve E-known Paul for a few years now. I think he’s the one who drew my eye to street art. that particular selection is pectacyñat.
Thanks Brian, that’s very generous of you. I’ve been a bit absent from the blog recently training for the 180km sportive. Thankfully that is done now and life can return to normal! Hope all’s well, Paul
My pleasure Paul. I remember your mentioning sthg about that. 180 clicks? On a bike I hope?
I think street art is so interesting. There has been quite an increase in street art in my town recently.
I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for street art, and try to spot something interesting wherever I go. It’s much more common these days – and also more ‘professional’. If that isn’t contradictory.