I go up to London a lot and if I can, try to see what can be done around the city for free. There’s lot of museums and art galleries, but it can be more of a struggle if you’re looking for free things to do outside. There is the nose tour if you’ve heard of that, where you follow a trail of noses around the capital… not something I’ve done yet!
However, more appealing to me is looking at street art (not just Banksy) and grabbing coffee on the go to enjoy it all. Spring and summer are the best times of year to wander around and take in some art outside, so here’s my list of where to find London’s best street art. The short answer is Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Southbank and Camden, but here are a few specific examples.
If you’ve liked any of the below let me know, or if you’ve got a hidden gem I’d love to hear how to see it for myself, so leave a comment with what and where.
Phlegm, Heneage Street, near Brick Lane
Spotted this whilst visiting the nearby Cereal Killer Cafe – a large landscape of houses and people on stilts, drying fish and cooking. It’s pretty striking and suits the artistic image of Brick Lane to a tea. Just enter Heneage Street into Google Maps and you can’t miss it. Designed by Sheffield based artist Phlegm, it’s become pretty famous. You can also see some of his work at the Southbank skate park.
Banksy, Bruton Lane, Mayfair
I did say not just Banksy and it’s hard not to include him at all! ‘Shop ‘til you drop’ in Mayfair is a graffiti piece poking fun at capitalism right in the heart of one of the wealthiest parts of London. Look up, take it in and make your own conclusions.
With that in mind, it’s kind of incredible that you can create something with such value from paint like this https://shop.bombingscience.com/graffiti-paint; value both artistically and financially. Banksy art is hugely popular and that’s reflected in the price tag. He once saved a struggling Youth Club in Bristol by spray painting ‘Mobile Lovers’ on the building, raising £400,000 for the club.
Conor Harrington, Spurling Road, East Dulwich
This huge street art installation is heavily detailed and the result of the skill of artist Conor Harrington. A collaboration between street artists and Dulwich Picture Gallery allowed such realistic pieces to take shape. In this piece, Old Master Paintings are reimagined in a mural showing two classical men boxing. Presented in dull black and white, the emotion is raw and well-shaded. It’s fascinating to see old-style and modern art clash.
Global Street Art, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre donated the walls of it’s famous skate park to street artists and it’s now an artistic utopia, hosting various festivals and being a great spot for other creatives like photographers. It’s an atmospheric place just to stroll and take your time looking at the latest additions on the wall. A feast for the eyes, there’s plenty of colour and variation in what’s been created. Right along the Thames, combine it with a coffee (as I do) or grab some food before you have a mooch so you don’t feel rushed to move on when hunger sets in.
Bambi, Amy Whinehouse, Camden
Bambi is an unknown, female street artist said to be the new Banksy. She first caught the attention of the wider art scene with her portrait of the late singer Amy Whinehouse; a tribute in her favourite part of the London. Wearing red, it’s a touching memorial that captures her style of music.
Bambi has more on offer in Camden as well as art from many other graffiti-style artists, all surrounding the Camden Market area. You can go with Camden Street Art Tours on a guided walking tour, giving you lots of information on each piece and probably letting you take the time to enjoy the art without trying to find out more on your phone at the same time!
Guido Van Helten, Bell Lane, Shoreditch
A shaded face of a young boy is based on photographs taken of underprivileged youth by the Exodus Foundation and turned to street art by Australian Guido Van Helten. He’s done a number of faces as part of this project and they’re always detailed and large, so as not to go unseen or forgotten, just like the subjects he’s recreating.
Hope this has been interesting to delve into. If you did want to enjoy street art and stay indoors, there’s usually a few exhibitions on at any one time. This way you also get access to curators for Q & A’s. Check out Proof and the Howard Griffin Gallery for starters.