How Graffiti Artists Sold the Street Back to the Bourgeoisie
September 3, 2015
Graffiti writers have not always been treated with such reverence by the mainstream media, our art pawnbroking experts explain. Since the birth of hip-hop culture in the South Bronx in the late 1970s, graffiti was considered by many in positions of power and privilege as the scourge of the city, an untidy and unstoppable tide of criminal damage that threatened all the values of the time that were held dear. All corners of the establishment condemned the now-legendary crews that ran the railway lines after dark all over the city, their work considered a work of vandalism rather than expression, of chaos rather than creativity.
Praised by the art world
Fast forward to 2015 and the world, and indeed the world’s perception of this art form, has changed drastically. Graffiti writers have become graffiti artists, praised instead of purged by the powers at be. Banksy, of course, was very much at the forefront of this cultural revolution along with Shepard Fairey, the founder of Obey, and Space Invader, among others around the world. Nowadays, their work is protected on street corners and building sides from Tottenham to Tokyo, standing as a testament to their talent, perseverance and political impact that their work has had for so many years.
Life for the modern street artist is markedly different from those that started five, ten or twenty years ago. The effect of this so-called revolution has changed the way the art world perceives their work; while much of what they do, unless commissioned, is still illegal, it’s also revered in a way that the crews of New York City could not have believed all those years ago.
The two worlds are now blurred
Street art is now as big an attraction as fine art ever was, especially in the modern era. Pre-Raphaelite collectors now sit next to street art collectors in auction houses and galleries across the world – the line between ‘fine’ and ‘street’ has never been more blurred.
Enter Bambi. Touted with the predictable and possibly prohibiting nickname of ‘the Female Banksy’, her work has exploded on the scene thanks to a number of high-profile endorsements and commissions from some of the world’s most influential people. From Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, there has been a real upward trend of collecting both her originals and her limited runs of prints that accompany each body of work – something that has helped consolidate street art as a genuinely lucrative force within the art world.
Viewing her work, the Banksy comparison is not an unfair one. Iconic figures from pop culture are altered, twisted and skewed to translate messages that are relevant to contemporary society and because of that it is easy to see why such a fuss has been generated around her work. Like Banksy, she too remains anonymous – there are rumours that she also has a successful career in the music industry – and the mystique surrounding her work appears to continue to grow by the day.
Right place, right time
Bambi has entered the fray at what appears to be exactly the right time. While she cannot expect to match Banksy in terms of immediate impact, she can capitalise on the collectability of her work. As original pieces are being sold for tens of thousands of pounds and prints still generating four figure sums, she exemplifies the value and standing that street art now holds within the art world. If Banksy changed people’s attitudes towards the validity of the art form, Bambi is changing the way collectors behave with their purchases.
Will her work stand the test of time? It’s too early to tell. But if the walls of millionaires the world over continue to be populated by her original prints, Bambi’s legacy will mean much more than meets the eye.
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