Can street art be displayed in a museum?

Saul Neves de Jesus*

from a perspective of democratization of culture, of allowing everyone access to cultural events. Thus, art has “left” museums and galleries, coming to the street, to people.

By definition, urban art concerns artistic manifestations carried out in public, collective or urban spaces, allowing art to be brought closer to people, and distinguishing itself from manifestations of an institutional nature or mere vandalism.

Urban art has become increasingly popular, with some tourist use in some European cities, contributing to their animation and beautification. In Portugal this phenomenon has also occurred in some cities, particularly in Loures. Having held the first edition of “Loures Arte Pública” in 2016, with the participation of around 100 Portuguese and foreign artists, this city has established itself as a national and international reference in terms of urban art. Having started in Quinta do Mocho, an area of ​​the city that was still marginalized a few years ago, the artistic manifestations spread throughout the county, currently considering Loures as an open-air art gallery, constituting a source of pride for the almost 3000 residents, with guided tours for visitors, showing that art can be a factor in development and social inclusion.

Entrance to the STAAT Museum (Amsterdam) – Photos DR

In previous articles we have referred to works by several artists who develop urban art, namely Banky, JR, Bordalo II and Vhils, the latter two Portuguese who have distinguished themselves with several artistic productions abroad.

Since art is an expression of society, urban art manifestations address topics generally related to social issues, such as racial discrimination, children’s rights, peace, nature, multiculturalism and equality.

In this form of artistic expression, Banky is perhaps the artist whose works are best known internationally. The visual messages it produces address current issues, especially political and social criticism, with a strong revolutionary and anti-war bias, messages that are very necessary in this troubled period in human history, in which we run the risk of starting a 3rd World War.

In 2019, before the “war” against Covid-19, several cities around the world, including Lisbon, hosted the exhibition “Bansky: Genius or Vandal”, in which more than 70 works by Banky were presented, provided by several international private collectors. In this way, we were able to access a set of Banksky’s works gathered in the same space.

This is a curious phenomenon because, in the past, access to artistic production in the visual arts required people to go to museums or art galleries. Urban art has helped to reverse this situation, bringing art closer to people. Paradoxically, it is now also possible to enjoy “street art” in closed spaces, organized for this purpose.

View from inside the STAAT Museum

This is what happens in the Museum”STRAAT – The Museum for graffiti and street art”, the biggest and best street art museum in the world. Located on Amsterdam’s NDSM pier, this unique museum, with lots of natural light, showcases wall-sized street art.

This Museum invites artists to go and paint at STRAAT, with total freedom to carry out the work they want, with travel, accommodation and the necessary materials being paid for. The works are carried out in the Museum itself, while visitors walk inside the Museum, observing the giant canvases, true murals measuring about 5 x 10 meters.

Artists guarantee the copyright for the works they perform, the works being temporarily assigned to STRAAT.

Thus, the exhibition is never the same, as the works that a visitor can see being carried out in one week will be on display the following week. Blank canvases can also be found, prepared for some upcoming artists.

In this way, STRAAT manages to bring together works by around 150 artists, seeking to also have an educational role on the history and terminology of street art, presenting a systematization of information, entitled “From the streets to Straat. Six decades of graffiti and street art worldwide” (“From the streets to Straat. Six decades of graffiti and street art around the world”), in a space of the Museum prepared for this purpose.

When we visited this Museum last May, we were able to find the work of a Portuguese artist, Wasted Rita, on display, and we learned that STAAT had been nominated for the Best Museum in the Netherlands 2022 award.

Regardless of whether or not you are the winner, this Street Art Museum is really worth visiting!

* Full Professor at the University of Algarve;
Post-doctorate in Visual Arts;

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