Street Art Globalization - How Street Art Became a Global Phenomenon

Graffiti & Street Art

April 22, 2015

When thinking about globalization in art, it can be seen as not very recent development. It started at least as a part of the colonization process, and it spread especially in the nineteenth century with the influx of ethnic art that started a change in the visual vocabulary and led to the rise of modern art from Cubism to Expressionism and Surrealism. Along with the influences of art market, capitalism, new technologies and the fact that it became a lot easier to tour around the globe, it became one of the corner stones of that shift from classic art to modern art. In today’s world, where everything changes in a blink of an eye, not even the street artists are exempted from the process of globalization.

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El Seed - Calligraffiti on Jara Mosque, Tunisia

Street Artist as the Social Chronologist

The beginnings of graffiti can be traced far back in history, in the Ancient Greece and Roman Empire, when the graffiti also served as a mean of social and political expression, simple scratches in the building walls, but carrying a strong message for the masses. It did not changed a lot since then, at least in the ideological sense. Street artist still use the walls to express their messages, and usually, it is done illegally. Still, something has changed, both visually and ideologically with the process of globalization. Street artist started to use a big range of tools and shifted his modus operandi from local to global, both in ideological and physical sense. The quick spread of the Internet allowed the news to travel the globe in the speed of light, letting the street artist to contemplate not only on the local social problems but on the larger scale, letting the street artist, such as Banksy, to speed up the process of globalization in the world of street art.

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Banksy, Palestine

Parallel Development of Street Art and Globalization

While the likeness of painting illegally, thus interacting with the public beyond the white walls of a gallery or museum, had been going on at the same time in the 20th century, at the different places like New York, Sardinia and Tehran, the real rise of street art and the start of the globalization can be connected to the hip-hop and punk movements and their emergence around the world. Although burdened with different problems, from New York to Tehran, the need for the expression and rebellion was mutual. Globalization, through new technologies and the emergence of social networks, brought the intensification of global social relations which linked the distant localities in such way that a local happenings are framed by developments occurring many kilometers away and vice versa.

globalization, street art post work public like design history
Shepard Fairey, Asbury Lane Mural

Globalization and the Aesthetic Differences

The cultural differences are mirrored in the different aesthetic differences in the graffiti styles. In Bronx, Tracy 168 developed the wildstyle graffiti and formed the Wild Style graffiti crew. The Dutch graffiti artists were focused on typographical innovations due to the importance of Dutch graphic design. Influenced by their Arabic heritage, the artist El Seed, a Tunisian raised in Paris suburbs, alongside with street artists, such as L’Atlas and A1one, remixed the graffiti art with the traditional principles of the Arabic script, thus creating a form of graffiti called Calligraffiti. With the globalization of street art as a movement it is natural that also the aesthetics is influenced by the rapid speed of the globalization. It takes the meanings and display of culture from the country of origin and publish it through dominant factions of the globe in order to gain acceptance for a certain message, movement, or implementation of street art.

globalization, street art public like design history
Jean Michel Basquiat - K-Rob Vs. Rammelzee - Beat-Bop

Street Art Secured as a Genre

Globalization helped the street art, a part of subculture, to ease in the pop culture. This art form represents a cultural turning point as significant and irreversible as the reception of Pop art in the 1960’s. Street art attained a significant bibliography, securing it as a blooming genre and institutionalized object of study. And while the freedom of expression found in street art bloomed with the process of globalization, it also had its downsides.

In next week’s sequel of the article, read more about how globalization influenced street artist JR, as well as El Seed, Zachas, Etam Cru and Invader.

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