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STREET LIFE: Remembering London’s noughties urban art explosion
Editorial / Artists

STREET LIFE: Remembering London’s noughties urban art explosion

3 Aug 2023 | 5 min read

If you’d have seen a queue snaking away from a red rope and down a London street at the beginning of 2007 or 2008, you might have assumed it was for a club. In fact, it could equally have signalled an opening night at one of the city’s street art exhibitions – the hottest tickets of the time.

Much like New York in the early 1980s, London in the 2000s experienced a street art boom. But unlike the faster-than-light price appreciation across the Pond, the city’s print scene made collecting accessible to all – or, at least, those willing to wait in line. At galleries such as Black Rat Press, Lazarides and Elms Lesters, sneaker collectors mixed with bankers and students chatted to art dealers.

First ever UK solo exhibition of KAWS in 2002 at Elms Lesters.
First ever UK solo exhibition of KAWS in 2002 at Elms Lesters.

First ever UK solo exhibition of KAWS in 2002 at Elms Lesters.

Elms Lesters

In Hackney, collectors scoured the streets for found pieces by the likes of Adam Neate. International superstars such as Shepard Fairey showed work with emerging UK talent. Many of the latter would go on to have stellar careers: Conor Harrington, for example, whose work featured in the Saatchi Gallery’s recent Beyond The Streets exhibition alongside US legends such as Keith Haring and Fab 5 Freddy.

Installation shots of Beyond The Streets at Saatchi Gallery, 2023
Installation shots of Beyond The Streets at Saatchi Gallery, 2023

Installation shots of Beyond The Streets at Saatchi Gallery, 2023

The Banksy Effect: one man’s Great British brand

There’s no doubt that one man was more responsible than most for the street art explosion.

“Banksy is an old friend, and the energy he has created around public art in London has affected the entire scene,"
Shepard Fairey told the Evening Standard in 2012.

The artist had already gained notoriety in his native Bristol when he embraced stencils as a way to increase his output at the turn of the millennium. His political commentary struck a chord with a left-leaning Britain while acting as a rallying cry against burgeoning consumerism.

Banksy created this work as part of The Cans Festival, Leake Street, London, 2008. It no longer exists.

Banksy created this work as part of The Cans Festival, Leake Street, London, 2008. It no longer exists.

Pest Control Office

Very soon, Banksy became a celebrity favourite: Brad Pitt allegedly commissioned him to create a work to mark Hurricane Katrina back in 2005; Robbie Williams supposedly bought his first Banksy in 2006. His resulting fame came with a trickle-down effect – the art world’s laser focus on the UK.

By the time Hang-Up began selling Banksy back in 2008, he was a household name. And, when the gallery set up a Banksy Bunker at its first premises in Dalston, it drew visitors from all over the world.

These days, Banksy has the hearts of auctioneers and high-profile collectors but 2023 has also marked a noticeable return to the streets. Then there’s his current stencil retrospective, Cut and Run, at the Glasgow Gallery of Art – a fond (and authorised) look back at where it all began.

Hang-Up Gallery's Banksy Bunker in 2017
Hang-Up Gallery's Banksy Bunker in 2017

Hang-Up Gallery's Banksy Bunker in 2017

Net gains: street art’s place on the web

At the beginning of the century, there was another phenomenon fuelling the hype too: the internet. Only recently widely used, the world wide web spawned forums full of street art collectors discussing limited print releases, artists’ identities and much more.

Thanks to the street art boom’s origins at the beginning of the internet, online marketplaces soon became the most popular places to buy prints and limited editions – widening the market way beyond those London gallery openings and ensuring collecting remained accessible.

This growing community fed the resale fire at a point when options were thin on the ground, trading online and creating a cycle of demand. It wasn’t long before online galleries such as Hang-Up opened to cater for buyers who wanted to be certain of expertise and authenticity.

Keep scrolling to see some works you could add to your street art collection.

A Panel of Experts

Jean-Michel Basquiat

A Panel of Experts

  • 1982-87/2022
  • Screen print on paper
  • Edition of 85
  • Stamped and signed by Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, the artist’s sisters and administrators of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
  • 102cm x 102cm
  • Sold framed

£56,000

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Jean-Michel Basquiat – A Panel of Experts

A Panel of Experts

The fistfight at the top of the left rectangle of this piece is a stick-figure representation of an actual encounter between two women in a New York nightclub: Basquiat’s girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk (nicknamed Venus) and his lover, the singer Madonna, who, despite the copyright symbol beside her name, was not yet a celebrity.

Girl With Balloon (Purple AP) - Signed

Banksy

Girl With Balloon (Purple AP) - Signed

  • 2004
  • Screen print on paper
  • Artist's proof
  • Signed and numbered
  • 50cm x 70cm
  • Total edition of 88 APs comprising different colour variants
  • Sold framed
  • Full Pest Control COA

POA | Over £160,000

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Banksy – Girl With Balloon (Purple AP) - Signed

If you’re interested in buying or selling a Banksy today..

If you’re interested in buying or selling a Banksy today..

..or just want to discuss work by street artists, please do get in touch.


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