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Hot Cities for Street Art

by Lesley Peterson

From ancient Rome to modern Melbourne, street art has always been a public forum for social commentary and self expression. Graffiti’s underground roots continue to inform an increasingly mainstream art form covered in major exhibitions in London, Paris and New York. As local laws change and artists travel, epicentres shift. Here’s where to find some of the hottest outdoor ‘galleries’ now.

London, England

London’s gritty East End is a hunting ground for work by top U.K. and international artists such as Banksy, Stik, Shepard Fairey and Roa. A street art tour will guarantee sightings of the latest and best, but much can be spotted on your own by poking around Spitalfields, Shoreditch and multiethnic Brick Lane. The U.K.’s top urban arts festival Streetfest is a chance to witness the creative process as it happens.

BrickLane

Credit: Lesley Peterson

Brussels, Belgium

From Magritte to comic books, Brussels has always inspired fantasy and the surreal. Street art flourishes in industrial Neerpede Park as well as Rouppe District near the Comic Book mural route. Former bad boy Gaetan Tarantino now focuses on legal street art, his foundation bringing dozens of street artists together for projects like Europe’s biggest graffiti fresco: 5, 000 square metres at the De Wand tram station.

Paris, France

While two of the world’s most famous street artists—Blek le Rat and JR—come from Paris, their work is getting harder to spot here as they travel the world. Fans of les artes urbaines can check out the neighborhoods of Belleville, Oberkampf and Ménilmontant, or bohemian-chic Le Marais. Hunt down locations with the help of Paris Street Art and be sure to keep an eye out for wee, tiled Space Invaders.

Berlin, Germany

Called ‘the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world’ and the most ‘bombed’ city in Europe, Berlin is home to radical street artists who’ve been steadily covering concrete in the city’s east districts since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Look for stencils by XOOOOX and the signature fists of native Berliner Kripoe. Alternative Berlin offers tours and workshops if you’d like to try your hand.

New York, USA

Looking for street art in New York? There’s an app for that. In Brooklyn, Bushwick and Williamsburg are especially well adorned. In Manhattan, head to neighborhoods south of midtown, especially the gallery district of Chelsea. The global participatory art project INSIDE OUT is making its way through New York’s five boroughs, with French superstar JR recently plastering Times Square with large-scale photo portraits.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

From Bogota to São Paulo, muralismo is big in South America, where art and political protest merge on many a wall. In Buenos Aires, a lively street art scene developed after Argentina’s 2001 economic crash when several graphic designers and artists wanted to raise people’s spirits. Now, commissioned street art is actually raising property values in Palermo Viejo, a bohemian district once home to Che Guevara and Jorge Luis Borges. A visit to collective-run gallery Hollywood in Cambodia and adjacent Post Bar terrace are a must.

Montreal, Canada

Included in a documentary on Montreal graffiti art recently debuted at the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA), work by OMEN and other local artists can be spotted in trendy Plateau district if you stroll down Mont Royal and Boulevard St. Laurent. The annual graffiti festival Under Pressure invites international artists to participate in street art exhibitions like Fresh Paint, an explosion of colour, murals and tag art.

 

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