Street art was born in Philadelphia in the United States during the 60s, driven by the momentum of artists like Cornbread and Cool Earl. Looked down upon for years, this art style consists of tagging walls, public transport and buildings… Illegal and fleeting, because of the ease to cover it up, street art has nonetheless managed to conquer the hearts of many artists. The objective is to make this art accessible and visible to a large number of people, as a way to communicate deeper meaning and make people think. Today, some street art can be valued at millions of dollars and are renowned works of art. Artsper presents the 10 most famous pieces of street art in the world!
1. Banksy, The Little Girl with the Balloon
He is the most famous street artist in the world. The anonymous Banksy has been creating works of art all over the world for more than 23 years. The primary characterization of his work? Its ability to provoke. The British artist works mainly with spray cans and stencils that he prepares before he begins painting. In 2002, he created one of his most recognisable works, The Little Girl with a Balloon, in London. This little girl in a black dress lets her balloon fly away, and Banksy writes next to the tag “There is always hope”. It’s his way of saying that we should never give up even when everything seems to be at its worst. In 2018, during an auction for the silkscreened version, the work self-destructed a few seconds after the auctioneer’s hammer hit. This is one of the biggest artistic scandals.
2. Keith Haring, We the youth
This American pop art artist is known for his colorful drawings of stylized characters. Keith Haring began his career alongside Jean Michel Basquiat. In 1988, he was diagnosed HIV positive and decided to fight his battle through art. In his work, he fights against drugs, AIDS, and many other adversities. He painted a mural in 1987 in Philadelphia that he named We the youth and was one of the first artists to create a mural. After several months of scouting for the perfect location, he painted this mural, which became world famous, with 14 high school students. The work is located in an underprivileged area and aims to encourage its development.
3. Combo, Coexist
Born to a Lebanese Christian father and a Moroccan Muslim mother, Combo officially began his career as an artist in 2012. This committed street artist decided to pass the forbidden zone of Chernobyl in order to stick up his advertising posters. In 2015, he was inspired by a Polish logo created by designer Piotr Mlodozeniec: COEXIST.
Coexist is illustrated through different religious symbols: the crescent, the Star of David and the Christian cross. This street art calls for the tolerance and the respect of all beliefs. Since the attacks against Charlie Hebdo, Combo has displayed his art in the streets of Paris. Unfortunately, he has already been attacked whilst creating his art.
4. Shepard Fairey (Obey), Marianne
A committed artist since 1993, the American Shepard Fairey began to take an interest in the street art world at an early age. As a teenager, he created drawings for t-shirts and skateboards. Influenced by artists such as Andy Warhol or Diego Rivera, he decided to create stickers that he stuck around his city. The face of the wrestler André The Giant has been stuck more than a million times. For him, it is a good way to be known in the world of street art. One of his multiple works which is renowned worldwide is a mural tag located in Paris in the 13th district. This work in the colors of France represents Marianne (a personification of the French republic). It was painted following the attacks in 2015.
“Action is worth more than words” is the motto of this street art work.
5. D*Face, Love Won’t Tear Us Apart
Dean Stockton, also known as D*Face, is an English pop art artist born in the early 1980s. Initially, he drew characters on pieces of paper to fight boredom. Over time, his little drawings became his passion. He then started to draw on different medias and create stickers. These later became posters, which then grew even larger to end up on the walls of Paris. In 2017 he made a street art fresco in the 13th arrondissement of Paris that he named Love won’t tear us apart. D*Face paints a couple to evoke love. The man with the skull face symbolizes the old relationships that are no longer in our lives but still very present in our thoughts.
6. Bradley Theodore, Karl Lagerfeld & Anna Wintour
Bradley Theodore is from the Caribbean, and paints celebrities from the fashion world like colorful skeletons. He started out on the streets of London where he created street art. Bradley eventually turned to painting on canvas in order to show his work to the public and has had many partnerships. One of his world-famous works was done in New York in 2017. He painted two fashion icons facing each other: Karl Lagerfeld on the right, Anna Wintour on the left. Both characters are immediately recognizable thanks to their famous haircuts.
7. Banksy, The Flower Thrower
One year after the creation of The Little Girl with the Balloon, Banksy made a stencil work in 2003 on a wall in Jerusalem. It is his second flagship work: The Flower Thrower. In order to fight against war, denounce its horrors and advocate for peace, the street artist paints this man whose face is not recognizable and who throws a bouquet of colored flowers like a Molotov cocktail. At the time of its creation, a resident said to him “We do not want this wall to be beautiful, we do not want this wall, go home. “
8. Pichi and avo, NorthWest Walls Festival
Here are two Spanish artists who stand out from the crowd! Pichi and Avo have created a new form of street art, mixing classical sculpture, modern painting and urban art. Inside and outside, the two artists work on different mediums. They have collaborated with many internationally known artists such as the Portuguese Vhils. But their career really took off in 2015 with their impressive work of street art constructed on 7 containers. It features ancient Greek style sculptures mixed with the graffiti style.
9. Eduardo Kobra, Etnias
Kobra is one of the most famous mural artists in the world. Originally from Sao Paulo, he creates street art paintings on the walls of Spain, France, India and many other countries. In 2016, for the Olympic Games that took place in Rio, Kobra broke the record of the largest mural in the world by painting Etnias. It is 190 meters long and 15 meters high, meaning it is a total of 3,000 square meters to paint, which required 1,000 pots of white paint, 1,500 liters of color paint, 3,500 cans of aerosol spray and 40 days of work. The painting shows five faces of different origins, representing the five Olympic rings and the five continents. Through his work, Kobra wished to convey the following message: “We are all One: the human race”.
10. Bambi, Don’t Shoot
This last work is made by a woman, the famous British artist nicknamed Bambi. Born in the 80s, she began to make graffiti in the streets of London. Anonymous, people call her “the female Banksy”. Equally provocative, she creates stencils that denounce various forms of injustice. In her works, she features contemporary figures such as Donald Trump or Amy Winehouse. Her most famous work is that of five boys, reproduced identically side by side and raising a hand. Instead of the balloons that are supposed to be under their feet, there are skulls. Bambi decided to write in red letters “Don’t Shoot”. Finally, the boys wear T-shirts with the Nike logo “Don’t Do It”. This work, which displeased the Nike brand, was intended to fight against police violence.
Now you know a little more about the most famous pieces of street art! Next Artsper invites you to discover the best street art, city by city, from Barcelona to Bogota to London. What will be your first destination?