URBAN STREET ART – A PART OF LONDON’S CULTURAL IDENTITY

“Will the cultural flame of modern London survive this summer?”

So asks the UK’s Guardian newspaper in a recent article on the announced crackdown on street art by London officials and promises to remove any public graffiti discovered, as well as arrest individuals caught in the act of creating new works ahead of the Olympic Games. “Several known street painters and individuals have been banned from Olympic venues and London public transport in a pre-emptive police strike against supposed threats to public order on the eve of the London Olympiad.” The Guardian

For nations that play host to a mega event such as the Olympic Games, this provides an opportunity to invest in the build/refurbishment of infrastructure and facilities that will benefit the local communities long after the event is over. The London Summer 2012 games are certainly no different. Although the media buzz leading up to the Games has been slightly marred by reports on the failure of a certain security company to fulfill its contracted duties to deliver the necessary forces, threats to strike by certain union groups; and ofcourse Londoners will have to continue bemoaning the missed opportunity for an overhaul of the city’s ‘vintage’ tube system; East London on the other hand, home to the majority of the event venues has gotten a much needed facelift.

Although in our part of the world, there’s not much, if any graffiti, to be seen on the pristine sidewalks of Dubai, the identity of contemporary London is characterized by a medley of the old & new – of which street art leads the ‘new’ and artists such as Banksy have gained notoriety across the world for their incredible artworks.

Celebrating the rich cultural essence of London has been the central theme of the myriad of pre-Games promotional campaigns by British enterprises; notably the BBC has been running a ‘London Calling’ themed season of programmes that celebrates the UK’s wonderfully diverse and cosmopolitan city in the year of the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

So it seems a bit of a shame really that such extreme measures are being implemented to water-down or eradicate such a strong element of London’s street culture. The Guardian journalist rightly sums it up: “The Olympic suppression of graffiti and street art is a chilling sign that instead of magnifying or rekindling the reputation London now has for outrageous art and irrepressible creativity, this corporate behemoth is cancelling out the capital’s attractions and drawing attention to its weaknesses…Tourists don’t come to London for shining perfection. They come for old and new in chaotic ungainly juxtaposition.”

So in salute of the vibrant culture of street art across the world, below are images of interesting graffiti artworks that I’ve collated from sites such as London Street Art, Street Art NYC org and the Street Art Germany facebook page. Enjoy the images & let the Games begin!