London is home to a thriving street art scene that’s ever-changing and never boring. Discover the best neighbourhoods for street art in London in this series of articles. We start with street art in Shoreditch – the ever-cool hub of London’s urban art scene.
As a born and bred Londoner, I’m sometimes guilty of taking the city for granted. Though I’ve written about the street art in Lima and Lisbon, I hadn’t said a word about the thriving urban art scene in my hometown.
Over the weekend, I set out to fix that. 12 miles of walking, several tube/ train/ bus/ overground rides, many Instagram posts and Tweets and here are the results. The definitive guide to street art in London.
This is the first in a series of articles chronicling where you can find the best street art in London – don’t forget to come back and check the others, which will be published throughout the course of the next week.
You can’t write a piece about street art in London without talking about Shoreditch. It’s arguably the place that everyone thinks of when they think of the capital’s street art scene.
You can’t write a piece about street art in London without talking about Shoreditch.
Starting the Shoreditch Street Art Trail
If you ever want to film a tumbleweed blowing down an empty street, try walking from Old Street to Shoreditch High Street before 10am on a Sunday morning. So much empty. It was pretty perfect as I could do that dangerous tourist thing and take photos in the middle of the road (under the watchful eye of J of course). I’d say it was worth it…
Our first stop was this striking feature on the exterior of The Red Gallery on Rivington Street. The Red Gallery and accompanying Red Market contain a large selection of street art and murals – walk through any of the spaces and you will see an ever-changing roster of work from artists around the world. The geisha on the gallery’s facade is one of the largest pieces of street art in London.
We also spotted this piece by Brazilian artist Ananda Nahu on the side of the Red Room. Nahu created the work for LATA Street Art Festival last year. Let’s hope it sticks around for a while longer.
Walks and Thoughts
From there it was a matter of walking down Great Eastern Street. There’s a sense of urgency lent by street art as it’s almost always temporary. If you walk the same route from one month to another, you’ll never find quite the same pieces. Walls are painted, sprayed, whitewashed and sprayed again. Hoardings are taken down. Pieces are vandalised or hidden under posters. The temporary nature of street art is part of its appeal, but it’s also sad when a favourite piece disappears forever.
If you walk the same route from one month to another, you’ll never find quite the same pieces. Walls are painted, sprayed, whitewashed and sprayed again. Hoardings are taken down. Pieces are vandalised or hidden under posters.
Duck onto Holywell Lane to check out Village Underground’s ever-changing mural.
At the moment, it’s this bright piece by Argeris Ser entitled “Sea of Knowledge: A mother Chipac guides and educates her children in a sea of knowledge”. Watch Ser in action.
The next stop on the walk was Sclater Street. Ducking and diving through the Sunday morning market, we spied a few pieces including this cute geometric bear from OKUDA.
From there, it was onto Brick Lane. So much has been written about Brick Lane’s street art that it almost feels a shame to add more words to the count… But I shall. If you want to get a glimpse of London’s street art scene but don’t have much time, Brick Lane and its immediate surrounds is the place to go. It feels like there’s a new piece waiting to be discovered around every corner. Even the bins are bursting with life. Seriously.
If you want to get a glimpse of London’s street art scene but don’t have much time, Brick Lane and its immediate surrounds is the place to go.
Poke your head down Pedley Street to see Jay Kaes’ sci-fi themed mural. Step into a comic-book world where lives are turned upside down by technology. Oh wait, is that the real world? Whatever the message is, Kae’s powerful visual piece isn’t easily forgotten.
In the same locale, we found the first of two Ricky Also pieces that feature in this article (the second is located in the Seven Stars Yard). Ricky’s tongue-in-cheek characters can’t fail to brighten up your day – this tropical-shirted geezer features in both pieces.
Zabou is one of the most prolific names on the London street art scene (we found several of her pieces dotted around London and there were so many more we didn’t see). The French artist has been living in London since 2012 and has been bringing the capital’s walls to life ever since. sPray in London sits proud on Brick Lane (just across from Grimsby Street). The piece is rich with bright hues, capturing the viewer’s eye with its unmasked political and religious connotations.
Shoreditch Graffiti Wall
Further along Brick Lane, you’ll find one of Shoreditch’s most talked about street art hubs, the Seven Stars Yard (otherwise known as the Shoreditch graffiti wall). The pub’s car park has established itself as one of the most exciting places to see street art in London. The line up is always changing, but when we visited in May 2017 this is what we found.
Further along Brick Lane, you’ll find one of Shoreditch’s most talked about street art hubs, the Seven Stars Yard (otherwise known as the Shoreditch graffiti wall).
Exactly. There’s a reason the Seven Stars Yard is always busy – the walls feature the creme de la creme of international street art talent. At the moment the line-up is pretty stellar, but it pretty much always is.
Head just around the corner from the Seven Stars, to the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane and you’ll spy this arresting mural by Dale Grimshaw.
Several of Dale’s recent pieces have focused on the people of West Papua in support of the Free West Papua campaign and this one is no exception. Dale actually painted another stunning piece on this wall last year. Again, it focused on the Papua campaign. He returned in March to paint the latest piece that we can see today.
As busy as Brick Lane is (even on a Sunday morning), if you head to some of the less well-worn street art spots, you’ll often find you’re the only person there. I was really keen to have a look at Mr Cenz’s newest piece on the wall of the 5th Base Gallery. Little did I know that there was a surprise waiting in store…
The man himself.
It’s OK to go all pseudo fangirl at the age of 31 right? It was probably more embarrassing for Mr Cenz as I was like “wow, you like made that, wow. I mean, LOOK AT IT. Wow”. Look, playing it cool is not my thing. He was lovely though – apparently it only took him three days to create the main body of the piece and he was just there to finish off the gate that morning.
Mr Cenz has been a seminal figure in the London street art scene since the 80s. No street art tour of London would be complete without seeing some of his work (I’m not sure you could manage it anyway, he’s pretty prolific). His surrealist take on large-scale murals, complete with bold lettering and technicolored strokes, has established him as one of London’s most exciting urban artists.
Mr Cenz has been a seminal figure in the London street art scene since the 80s. No street art tour of London would be complete without seeing some of his work
As soon as we walked around the corner to Fashion Street, we gatecrashed one of Shoreditch Street Art Tours’ Sunday morning outings. Sure enough, the guide pointed to one of Mr Cenz’s pieces and proclaimed “Now this is beautiful. Even people who don’t really get the idea of street art can appreciate the beauty and skill of this piece”.
Now, isn’t that the truth.
Shoreditch Street Art Map
Any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.
Of course, the street art mentioned in this piece will continue to change over the coming months and years, but the places featured are long-standing canvasses for artists, so there should always be something to see in those spots.
Don’t forget to come back for the rest of the series on the best street art in London (hint, Camden, Walthamstow, Croydon and Peckham will be making an appearance). Can’t wait? Read our Street Art in Lima article!
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