Street art is difficult to pin down because its definition is always shifting. Street art started with graffiti and murals in cities. More broadly, it refers to art made in that bold, transgressive spirit. The label applies equally to large-scale graffiti pieces and the more private sketchbooks that graffiti artists used and traded among themselves called “black books.”
Graffiti is one of the four historic pillars of hip hop along with rap, DJing, and break dancing. It was linked not only with hip hop but also with political activism, gang culture and vehement opposition to graffiti bans around the world. In recent years, street art has entered the gallery space. Jean-Michel Basuqiat started his career as a “street artist,” literally living on the street, but he became a so-called “fine artist” and he sold the same work in galleries.
Street art challenges the distinctions between “high art” and “low art" but the change runs in the other direction as well. Increasingly, street art is becoming less transgressive and more palatable for gallery settings. Street artists must balance this broad market appeal with the defiant roots of the art form.
Some famous street artists include: