World As a Canvas
Who doesn't stop and stare at a street art piece on the way? Whether it’s Istanbul, Porto, Bozcaada, Lesvos or Thessaloniki, you’ll find great art works if you just raise or turn your head to take a look. As one of today’s best-known artists JR puts it "The city's the best gallery I could imagine."
Street art finds its origins in the form of graffiti in the ‘70s. Having a fraught relationship with the art world in general, street art has managed to make its way to galleries and museums and got accepted as the mainstream symbolism of contemporaneity. Between you & me, this is probably the only part of contemporary art I love, by the way...
Even though socially accepted, the act of defacing public property, on the other hand, has yet to become permitted or approved by the government. What is interesting is that the fact that works are subject to change or destruction is what contributes to the meaning of the piece and helps the growth of street art popularity.
By now, you’ve probably heard of, perhaps the most famous graffiti artist who goes by the name of Banksy. A political activist with a message to convey, Banksy is known for subverting paintings like Monet's Water Lily Pond and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. I had gotten to know Banksy thanks to the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” (directed by himself) after which he admitted the plot of an immigrant’s obsession with street art and eventually becoming an artist is a true story. You might have caught him recently in the news with launching a hotel (museum, gallery, protest all in one) with the worst view, overlooking Bethlehem Wall which separates Israel from the Palestinian territories. His identity seemed to be revealed accidentally in musician Goldie’s interview as Massive Attack’s member but nevertheless he prefers to stay under the radar, like most do, and deny it.
Today's street art is largely placed in a middle ground between an act that is against the law and a beautifully respected act of artistic expression.
So, what is your insight on this, can you name any artists? Can you at least identify them by their work or go beyond their nicknames? Well, now you have apps (e.g. streetart-istanbul as befits the name) to map street art and learn more about the artist as well as the piece. Google has a world-wide art project -in beta for the moment- with audio tours, online exhibitions and artist stories. Will be something when it includes each and every piece. To speak for Istanbul, they have covered only one region (but in detail) so far.
Speaking of which, the best places in Istanbul where you’ll encounter pieces from murals to stencil are; Yeldeğirmeni, Beyoğlu, Karaköy, Galata from artists such as Brazilian Manoel Quitério, Claudio Ethos, Italian Pixel Pancho, Turkish Gamze Yalçın, Omeria, Leo, Nuka and Gölgeartizm.
Fener & Balat
Here’s a gallery for the other pieces I’ve come across as I travel. Decide for yourself which city has the best street art. Not to mention, the gallery is definitely to be updated with next destinations.