Think of street art and one name jumps to mind before all others: Banksy. The stencil master, activist, filmmaker, and all-round provocateur has become the (anonymous) face of an entire art form, but he’s far from the only urban artiste the UK has produced.
As in New York, the late 1980s saw prominent graffiti and street artists emerge from Manchester, Birmingham, London, Bristol, and other creative corners isles. A once-shunned practice became a phenomenon, leaving behind the cover of darkness and stepping into the bright light of infamy. Street art went mainstream, but held onto its edge and happily embraced the discomfort of the stiff upper lips who snubbed it.
Banksy has been a part of the culture since its very beginnings in England. His nemesis King Robbo, with whom he waged a famous feud chronicled in a documentary by Channel 4, was another early pioneer of the genre. Other earlier inductees to the cannon of British street artists include Paul Insect, known for his witty spray-painted works in the ’80s and contemporary colour-drenched canvases, and Nick Walker, the stenciling icon hired by Stanley Kubrick to recreate the graffiti’d streets of New York for the 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut.
Several decades later, the cannon continues to expand, adding notable artists like Stik, Phlegm, Adam Neate, SNUB, Ben Eine, and duo Best Ever.
Street art in the UK has produced some of the most influential, legendary, and incendiary names in the game. Here you’ll find 40 worth knowing next time you want to sound cool at a party.
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