190 Bowery Street
I went on a graffiti tour that went through NOHO, SOHO and the Lower East Side last weekend. We saw works by street artists - Space Invader and Roa - that were remarkable. Roa had created a commissioned mural of a bird on the side of a building, and the former artist derived his work from the unforgettable arcade game, Space Invader. Knowing that his art is completely illegal in New York City, made me wonder why the city has not redrafted its graffiti laws from the 1980's?
Furthermore, the tour moved on and the guide led us to 190 Bowery street, a decrepit building covered with graffiti. Iconic aesthetic symbols such as Eddie Murphy from the film,Coming to America and a Native Ammerican chieftan were present. Nonetheless, a stenciled graffiti mug shot of Ai Weiwei with the words,'Where is my passport?,' struck me most. The intention of this work is clear: raise public awareness to the lack of freedom of expression in modern day China. This simplicity, however, should not understate the effectiveness that street art posses, especially when the socially relevant conceptual idea matches a recognizable symbol. So I pose the questoin: what should constitute legal street art? Under what circumstances?
Lastly, 190 Bowery street has undergone one of the highest rates of inflation in New York City. In the 1970's the building was bought for roughly 100,000 dollars and is now estimated to be worth up to 30 million. If this is not indicative of the social value attached to street art, then what is?