Often considered the most controversial street artist in the world, Banksy pioneered the contemporary urban art subculture as we know it today. With his tongue and cheek sensibility, the English graffiti artist and internationally renowned prankster has managed to become one of the world’s most recognized artists while remaining completely anonymous. His oeuvre involves both permanent and impermanent works, which utilizes satire, subversion, dark humor, and irony to create pertinent social, political, and humanist messages for the masses; both populous and public in nature. His style is universally recognizable, based on a signature stencil aesthetic that has elevated him from mere man with a spray can to a highly creative artist in his own right. He is credited as one of the artists responsible for catapulting guerilla work into the mainstream as a viable form of art, and breaking the distinctions between high and low art.
His legendary reputation has grown since the 2010 release of his groundbreaking film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Three years later, in NYC, the enigmatic British street artist took the metropolis by storm with his unexpected Better In Than Out project. Installations began popping up across Manhattan, taking the world by surprise and creating a frenzy in the art community. More recently, Bansky has focused his work on humanitarian aims. From his powerful works in at a refugee camp in Calais, France to his participation in the #WithSyria campaign, the iconic street artist shows no signs of slowing down. In 2015 his pop-up installation Dismaland converted a derelict seaside swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK, into an apocalyptic theme park; a pointed social critique of consumerism, immigration, and celebrity culture.
One of the most popular street artists in the contemporary landscape, Alexandre Farto, better known as Vhils, is continuing to evolve and push his trademark style. Emerging on the scene in 2008, his work, which consists of chiseling away layers of walls using a variety of tools, made him an instant sensation. Over time, the artist, who hails from Portugal, has honed and refined his technique, using it across a variety different media to great effect. His explosive viral video, in which small explosives set off a chain reaction, carving images into a wall, helped catapult him to international success. In 2014, he was one of 11 artists invited by the band U2 to create music videos for their album Films of Innocence.
Tavar Zawacki, also known as Above, is a Berlin-based international contemporary street artist. He is known to work in a multitude of different mediums exploring social and political topics. The artists work is recognizable by his signature motif: an arrow pointed upwards, which is often incorporated into his work. Although his visuals display a fascinating technical ability, Zawacki usually relies on large witty portions of text to conceptually carry the majority of his murals and paintings. Zawacki’s mostly works within the confines of three discernible categories: multi-layer stencils, colorful abstract arrow compositions and large text-based murals.
Hyuro is an Argentinian-born street artist based out of Valencia, Spain. Her work blends political commentary with a surrealist sensibility in uncanny black-and-white murals, paintings, and drawings. In dreamlike compositions, she casts a sea of characters—often including decapitated figures, dreary women, and animals who play out scenes that are both suggestive and which invoke a sense of curiosity. Hyuro began her career working primarily with canvas and continues to produce paintings and drawings, but in recent years has focused her practice on the streets of Valencia, Spain. Her works are spatial and gesticulatory, like animations that unfold directly on the wall, often dealing in themes of motherhood female perspectives.
Street artist Titi Freak (born Hamilton Yokota) utilizes alternative media as the canvas for his artistic practice. Often painting on sake boxes, garage doors, bar tops, and other unconventional surfaces, his style, which fuses pop culture references from both Eastern and Western culture, is informed by his Japanese heritage and his Brazilian upbringing. Yokota in his formative years worked with Mauricio de Souza, a popular Brazilian comic book artist, creating illustrations and developing characters, which would go on to influence his work as Titi Freak. His illustrations have been featured in ad campaigns for Adidas, Ecko, and Nike.
Hailing from Madrid, SpY is a famous urban artist that uses many different mediums. Beginning as a graffiti artist in the 1980’s, he started to explore other forms of non-conventional media in the street. His work now consists of playful reappropriation of urban elements, that he replicates or transforms, and then installs.
The bulk of the elements of SpY’s work stem from the observation of the city and an appreciation of its components as a palette of materials overflowing with artistic potential. His work has an unmistakably witty disposition and a careful attention to the context of each piece, incorporating each work of art seamlessly into the urban landscape. SpY wants his work “to be a parenthesis in the automated inertia of the urban dweller. They are pinches of intention, hidden in a corner for whoever wants to let himself be surprised. Filled with equal parts of irony and positive humor, they appear to raise a smile, incite reflection, and to favor an enlightened conscience.”
Street artist Libby Schoettle earned 20,000 Instagram followers and two new solo gallery shows by quietly plastering a paper-doll-like figure, “PhoebeNewYork,” on public spaces across New York City, from brick walls to scaffolding. She considers Phoebe her stylishly dressed alter ego: a round-headed woman with a bob haircut who grapples with femininity, sexual politics, and independence in fashion photo collages with provocative slogans. Phoebe has now popped up in cities including New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Sydney, and Barcelona in the form of prints wheatpasted to telephone polls and walls. Her original collages, which together constitute a narrative, of Phoebe falling in love, wandering around town, and experiencing heartbreak, are all created with found objects, including magazine pages, old books, record sleeves, and vintage photographs. Prints on her site sell for between $100–250.
CB Hoyo is a self-taught artist from Havana, Cuba whose work playfully questions artistic authenticity and monetary value in an era defined by fake news and social media. His tongue and cheek commentary on the art world draws much from Avant-Garde and Pop Art conventions; simultaneously questioning the concepts of originality and genre whilst blurring the line between reappropriation and plagiarism. Hoyo’s work borrows much from artists like Marcel Duchamp and Hannah Hoch from the Dadaist era.