It was to be expected. Street art is at a crossroads. On the one hand there are those writers and artists who fresco urban spaces around the world on a daily basis, while on the other, there are the big names who have broken through the barriers of this genre to become artists who command staggering prices. The roots and meaning of graffiti are still there, drawing inspiration from and speaking to the street, yet museums, the fashion world, and the full mainstream spectrum recognise the value of some of these works and seek to control it.
A few months ago, there was a stir over the decision made by Blu, an Italian street artist who is among the most recognised and esteemed in the world, to remove his works in Bologna. He made this decision to protest the organisation of an exhibition that included his works which had been removed in their entirety from the walls where they had been created to be exhibited in a museum. Does is make sense to have street art in a museum? Do forms, colours, designs and meanings created for a determined space, usually the city outskirts, on old buildings, in areas that are somewhat lawless, still make sense when displayed in a museum?
Blu reacted by covering his works with a coat of grey paint, and immediately people showed up to look at it because the grey wall, in addition to and especially as a result of what was beneath it, is a work of art invested with meaning and value. Today, when street art is being capitalised on by placing it in museums and replicating it on t-shirts and high fashion clothing, and Gucci is working with the writer Guccighost, what are its prospects for its future? An interesting answer can be found in the clamorous success of the Banksy exhibition in Rome, which did not include works taken from the street, but only those from the homes of private collectors. It is a new way to understand the evocative and subversive value of street art, albeit decontextualised from the urban landscape where it was created and developed.