One of the biggest street art “galleries”, a huge open-air collection of street art is in NYC Brooklyn, more specific the area known as Bushwick Collective. This area expanded a lot in recent years, and Brooklyn is the most representative neighborhood for this type of art in New York. You will notice many murals spread in Manhattan streets as well, but this is a sort of organized area where local or international artists paint, spray or decorate.
This started in the post-industrial Brooklyn, in 2012, by a neighborhood guy with Italian roots, Joe Ficalora. I recommend this 5 min video to learn more about him*. Once poor and dangerous, now Bushwick is at the edge of gentrification, but still has the community spirit. Some people say here is the largest open gallery in the world, with about 100 blocks embellished. The Bushwick Collective bloc parties hold annually in the summertime gathers a lot of artists who refresh the walls and this event spread the word about the area. So, if you are visiting, take note that every year you’ll find new and different walls.
Instead of wandering there on your own, my recommendation is to take a walking tour, as you’ll have the history, the insights and the opportunity to get local recommendations. We had an approx. 2hrs and a half on a cold Sunday morning with Mar, on a free tour by foot. If you’re not into this type of entertainment, you may want to know that here you will find a lot of hip restaurants and good coffee shops. We had a tasteful brunch at Hard Times, so consider Bushwick Collective at least for the food & coffees.
I can’t repeat all we’ve learned during the tour, but I tell you the guide will talk you through the street art history and artists. Starting with Graffiti works, mainly associated with typography, wrap letters and tags style, moving on to murals, commissioned art, brandalism, vandalism, art activism, etc all this define street or urban art. And there’s more to it, like wire or mosaic tiles designs, for example.
For me, street art is more than a kid’s scratch on the wall or vandalism. Shortly said, it’s creativity, beauty, and a gift to local communities. Sure, this modern form of art started with simple representations, in the ‘60s to ’70 and it definitely grew with the hip hop music. Back in the days, it was a statement, a claim of their area, but it was also significantly influenced by other arts, cartoons and comics. Once it was out of the subs, starting with the ’80s in NY, murals and commissioned art started to take more space in the rooftops and streets. And the story goes on.
*Tip: If you’re into this subject, check this 30 min documentary.
Don’t forget about our United States story and the New York day one and day two.