Urban art: Legal walls and the best sites for graffiti
Now many urban dwellers, and more importantly the authorities, are recognising graffiti as a genuine art form capable of offering something visually unique to a city and its citizens. There’s even a website legal-walls.net where you can locate legal graffiti walls worldwide, as contributed by users. It’s important to note that there may not always be specific laws allowing graffiti on certain walls but over time, it has come to be accepted sometimes with permission from the owners or local government.
These are some of the places in London and around the world where you’ll see the work of established and rookie urban artists and maybe even graffiti royalty like Banksy. You can even give it a go yourself.
A tourist mecca by the banks of the Thames, the London Eye looks over this walkway which bustles with visitors enjoying the bars and restaurants. Beneath the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, skateboarders vie for space among graffiti artists while interested onlookers take snaps and videos. The area is so popular for street sprayers that many find their work has been painted over within a matter of hours. A planned redevelopment of the building threatens ‘the Undercroft’ and has led to a movement to save the site.
The Venice Graffiti Walls at Venice Beach are a famous location for street artists in Los Angeles. Originally part of the Venice Pavilion built in 1961, taggers and sprayers have been decorating this site for decades. In the late 90s, the Pavilion was dismantled but parts of the walls were preserved because of the quality of the artwork. It became officially legal to paint there in 2000.
Zurich has some designated locations where city-owned land is given over to graffiti artists. The Rote Fabrik or ‘Red Factory’ has even played host to the International Graffiti Festival’s The Meeting of Styles Switzerland, a free event attracting painters from all over the world, together with DJs and food vendors. Located in a former silk mill, the Rote Fabrik is now an important cultural and community centre.
Brixton has long been a draw for music and street art lovers, with its mix of cultures and general buzz. Street festivals even involve live graffiti sessions and a wander through the laneways will throw up a whole host of artistic gems. Across from the Underground station, a mural by Jimmy C in tribute to David Bowie saw fans of the rocker flock there following his untimely passing. Today you’ll still see passers-by grabbing a selfie. Not too far away is the Stockwell Park Estate ‘Hall of Fame’, a haven for painters.
Melbourne’s laneways are famous for their street art and areas like Hosier Lane, located in the south of the city, have even featured in travel guides and ads for the region. In earlier days, Hosier and Rutledge Lanes featured depictions with strong political messages. Nowadays, among the cobbles, you’ll find all manner of urban art. Even Banksy has weaved his magic here. The City of Melbourne approves permits for artists in designated areas and there are also Melbourne Street Art Tours.
Nomadic Gardens, London
The Nomadic Community Gardens transform disused spaces into urban gardens, combining allotments, markets, and art. The community project in Shoreditch in the east of the city also plays host to the London leg of the Meeting of Styles festival, attracting renowned graffiti artists and organising workshops for newcomers to get involved.