A Brief History of Street Art: Main Highlights

Street art is undoubtedly a remarkable art phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries. From illegal urban guerrilla protest to one of the most flamboyant forms of artistic expression, it remains an idiosyncratic way to deliver a message from artist to society. 

Though still mostly illegal, it not only shapes the perception of art in general but also has a lasting impact on society. But where did street art come from? Let’s take a look at the main highlights of the history of street art.

A brief history of street art: main highlights

Back in the 1920s-1930s, there wasn’t such a thing as street art. Instead, there was graffiti art, its unofficial foregoer. Surprisingly or not, it all started with gangs. New York of that time had a rich subversive culture, meaning that streets were riddled with all sorts of spray paintings that no one, except gang members, could understand. 

New York City was home to graffiti art and became the prolific ground for its development later on. Pretty soon, urban art gained some respect and attention. Thanks to the photographers, it little by little was growing and gaining momentum. 

A boom happened in the 1970s-1980s when murals and wall paintings became more political. In other words, it carried and expressed some meaning and aim. That’s where contemporary street artists started to use a variety of media to make art, while their techniques became more complicated and cunning. It was the moment when the line between graffiti art and street art was drawn. 

The line became even less and less transparent with time. At the beginning of the new century, street art became a widespread form of artistic expression. Banksy, probably the most prominent street artist in the world, was and still remains the turning point for the whole industry. However, despite its popularity, street art is still mostly illegal. It is a young and new art movement, so maybe people will see it rising in the years to come.

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