The future of London street art

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Time Out speaks to the people who‘ll decide whether the art scene needs a new Banksy or not

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    Street artist and gallery owner, Pure Evil

    ‘People made money overnight with Banksy and that’s led people to panic buy and try to find the next Banksy,’ says Eleanor Forster, owner of the Forster Gallery. ‘That will subside but what’s positive about all the attention is that it’s highlighted how talented street artists are and made clear that they should not be denied entry into the art world just because they’re not yet in galleries.’

    Although, of course, some of them are: Forster represents Andrew McAttee, whose technicoloured pieces littered with pop art references sell for £10,000 (more at auction). ‘Street artists are fearless with their use of colour,’ says Forster. ‘That comes from perfecting the technique on an uneven surface. They also have an amazing ability to compose how a picture will look in their head without sketching it out first.’

    With artists who are certainly not household names selling work for five-figure sums, there’s no doubt that street art has arrived. However, Forster believes labelling it as such can be limiting: ‘The influence of the street is very much part of their make-up but some of my artists have been to art college as well. It’s the relationship to strong graphics in contemporary culture – Manga, Marvel comics, magazine illustrations – that defines the movement. I think the term “street artists” can be derogatory: it denies people recognition for their persistence in mastering the technical challenge of working on canvas, which can be hard.’

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    Pure Evil, 'Big Mouth on Hackney Road'

    Which is, to be fair, reflected in the narrowness of the band of artists who can command these sums. ‘There are only about 25 serious street artists who you would say are real players worldwide,’ says Paul Jones from Elms Lester Gallery, one of the first dealers to spot street art’s potential 25 years ago, ‘and about five or six of those are British.’ And while he believes there’s still room for prices to rise over the next three to five years, Jones is adamant that it’s too late for newcomer artists. ‘Artists like Banksy, Adam Neate, Space Invader and José Parlá are well established now – they’re the originals. The next generation will have to do their own thing to be noticed.’

    It’s a view that’s echoed by Forster, also at the rarefied end of the spectrum: ‘Banksy works for example are clever, witty, well exercised and have an ability to push into new ideas. But they are one-liners so we don’t need anyone else doing that.’

    Down in Shoreditch, street artist and gallery owner Pure Evil is less convinced. ‘I can’t imagine that an old-fart gallery owner will know the artists working at the moment,’ he says. ‘There are people putting up new stuff that is brilliant. Some gallery owners are feeding off the movement but aren’t part of it and that clouds their perception.’

    Pure Evil sees his gallery less as a hallowed space and more as a studio-cum-gallery and artists’ drop-in centre along the lines of the Alleged Gallery on New York’ s Lower East Side. ‘It’s nice to have this group of friends who work together. I worked with Ben [Eine] in November and artists from all over the world would drop in and ask about good places in London to do work.’

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    Pure Evil, 'Grumpy Banana'

    Word of mouth is key to the movement’s success, Pure Evil says: ‘Street artists are more aware of the art marketplace now. But it’s seeing what everyone else is doing that makes you want to step up your act. We’re not doing it to be accepted by galleries but by our peers. Street art doesn’t rely on reviews; there are no tastemakers.’ Instead, he says, the internet is best for spreading the word: ‘If someone does something brilliant in São Paulo you can see it days later in London.’

    Cedar Lewisohn, artist and author of the forthcoming book ‘Street Art’ (Tate) believes that it’s this desire to communicate that sets street artists apart from their graffiti-writer peers and gives them their marketability. ‘They’re speaking to a different, more art-literate audience. Graffiti writers are talking to their own. Street artists are not downtrodden. When you start seeing street art in your neighbourhood you know it’s on the up.’

    While some of the most established – and rich – including Adam Neate and Andrew McAttee have taken the ‘street’ out of their art and now work exclusively in the studio, for others it’s vital to keep it real. ‘Working on the street feeds into the work you do for a gallery,’ says Pure Evil.

    While some artists feel they have to work on the street to stay authentic, Cassius Colman, one half of the Columbia Road screenprint gallery Nelly Duff, is more pragmatic: ‘The gossip when a so-called new Banksy appears feeds the whole street art scene. For galleries it’s free advertising; for the purchaser, it’s kudos.’

    See more of Pure Evil's work at www.pureevil.eu

    See more of Nelly Duff's work at www.nellyduff.com

    Anti-Gravity by Andrew McAttee is at FORSTER from Feb 1-Mar 15. www.forstergallery.com

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21 comments
only1rara
only1rara

I agree with nico, who cares about what the subject matter is - buy what you like. I have a Pure Evil original and I love it! By the way Forster Gallery is closed, I go to artrepublic Soho on New Compton Street.

miron tee
miron tee

Pure Evil jest super......Pozdrawiam !

Nico
Nico

I think it's a f'kin joke. So you don't like Pure Evil, well...good for you. Spending way too much of your energy being negative and thinking you all know what's good, what's bad! Art, or however you want to call it is a matter of taste. Like food, if you don't like mushrooms you're not gonna f'kin go on about it for hours, let people have opinions but don't force yours on them.

Alexandra Kollaros
Alexandra Kollaros

Ok, so Pure Evil is really bad and his art is crap... Yet galleries and dealers from around the world (not to mention a huge fan base) chase after him. It must be because they are really clueless, whereas some people here have got it all figured out! There is thousands of very good graffiti, street, urban and whatever artists but surprisingly only very few of them manage to stand out from the crowd. Anyone ever wondered why that might be? II am sorry but if you think Pure Evil is not a great artist of our times, my guess is you probably can't tell you head from your a...e. Oh,and for the record, I am an art dealer operating in Greece. And ecstatic to have the opportunity to be working with Pure Evil. Then again that might be because I am a bad art dealer. And my clientele is also clueless and tasteless. Yeah, sounds like a possibility...

Kyri
Kyri

pathetic this isn't art it is lazy and poor

rubyglitter
rubyglitter

yeah his stuff aint great but hes just doin his ting and it aint all bad.but whats this about white boy middle class garbage?since when was street art invented by white people?

Jack
Jack

Pure evil's stuff is absolsutly awful!!! And his website is just one piece of terrible photoshoping!! The butterfly brush?! GOOD JOB! ORIGINAL! And pure evil, I cannot believe in your earlier comment you put yourself in the same sentence as Banksy D Face and yourself!! Get a grip and show some respect!

don banks
don banks

this guys work is rubbish. and why is this white middleclass fake artist going on about 'player haters' has he sold a painting to cristina aguilera in exchange for her vocab?

The future
The future

Pure Evil is the worst example of whats going on in 'street art' post banksy etc. His work is just diluted versions of everything that has come before him and is of very very poor quality. I saw some stuff of his in a gallery for over £10,000 and it was clearly done in a marker pen and with a projector, thats just not good enough. The work's all gimmicks and quick sells, it does nothing for me. It's a shame that the masses who no very little about street art see his work as cutting edge or the next big thing, there are hundreds of people that are better than him but who would rather be true to themselves by not going down the route of inventing a generic character, spraying it all over london for attention, and then making some money off the back of it with wack art... the future lies in something very different from this mould, and I can wait for it.

pure evil
pure evil

'brother , please ' 'lady, I am listening' 'that boy' ? trusay stop being so patronising.... I think you are what we call 'on the streets' a 'player hater'... From your comments it sounds like you have a BIG agenda and an issue with the fact that people like our art and get pleasure from it... I would suggest that maybe you are a 'player hater' because nobody likes your own work, and you choose to pour scorn on Banksy D*Face and myself because you feel a little jealous... well you know what ... We're just having fun.. sorry to p*ss you off... Just carry on hiding behind a pseudonym and throw poop at us... its quite amusing if a little SAD. best wishes PURE EVIL

Trusay
Trusay

Lady, I am extremely well informed. Feel free to elaborate, however.

ladyfiHK
ladyfiHK

I'm not a "street artist" - wouldn't even classify myself as an artist, coming from a design background, but have seen the mentioned artists work dotted around the world over several years - on t-shirts, in galleries, on the street, in books, etc. Do some of you actually know who some of these artists are? Have you followed their work? (Note that I don't use the word "streetartist") This is the medium in which they have chosen to work, be they Pure Evil, Dface, Banksy, whoever. This is also how they earn a living in order to have their creative freedom. Oh, and Trusay - you really need to get your facts straight before you hit "enter", or at least you need something, sweetheart.

Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson

How desperate do you have to be to become famous that you force people to look at your so called "art" by vandalizing public space. It's fucking middle class white boy garbage. Graf in art galleries is a gimmick and a scam. Bansky and most of the others is nothing more than politcal comic shit that shouldn't even make it in the local newspaper. Make art that changes the world not tee-shirts, sneakers and toys. Then again never underestimate the lowest common denominator. Buy it up idiots!

Amateur
Amateur

-"Street artist"..."graffiti artist", why not just "artist". Because "street" and "graffiti" reduce the meaning of an artwork. - Funny how some galleries pretend to know something about street art and graffiti. I doubt their abilities to give references.

MQ
MQ

actually i think the quote is misinterpreted. the guy from that gallery is just saying that new artists will have to do something original to get the same kind of attention. lot of copycats out there so fair enough.l

trusay
trusay

PS - stop covering up your faces like you are running from the law! ask yourself - if pure evil has done so much graffiti, how does he get away with fingerprinting his own prints? if the law want Dface so bad he has to be anon then how can he be at his little gallery all the time? Time for an end to fakeness. Artists are supposed to be visionaries, not marketing chumps.

trusay
trusay

So much spin going on here. Ok, of course a gallery is going to say artists they rep are the definitive exponents of a genre and try to exclude anyone new. "Don't compete with our market" is what that is about. As far as those artists being "the originals" ... well those people are all relatively newschool except maybe parla. a min ago neate was loudly PRing refusing to sell his art... well he got over that quick! sigh... how easily duped the public is. truesay the average "street vandal", still scum to most, has already paid more dues than these. there are definitely some real stars who are going to emerge in the next few years, the time is gone when a few commercial galleries have the power to hold down an artist. the internet and a wider audience will allow this to proliferate as long as there is fresh, original and vibrant art renewing it. as far as pure evil... well to me that boy is exactly what banksy so carefully distanced himself from - an "underground" tshirt label who did a handful of atrociously painted characters in a tiny area of london to market his clothes. then clearly realised that there is more money in art and jumped on that chatting about "cutting edge graffiti". Brother, please. the good thing is that the audience is getting a lot more savvy, wanting to know the history of the artist, and see the kind of genuine heart and skill that only comes from a life commitment to art. it will all come out in the wash, trust.

Captain Z
Captain Z

Forster's last show was Xenz, he works in the street still!

Graffiti artist 2
Graffiti artist 2

..Because Pure Evil is a street artist and he has his own gallery dedicated to street art : 108 Leonard St .

Janet Street Spotter
Janet Street Spotter

Why interview Forster gallery when none of their artists do work in the street. Why wasn't Stolenspace mentioned? They are the main urban art gallery in London.