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The art of the street artists works the other way around: it uses the urban space to reach as large an audience as possible. It's no coincidence that Cedar Lewisohn, in his book Street Art — The Graffiti Revolution, writes that the graffiti artists' interest in type styles, their ability to express complicated ideas in a simple way, and their instinct for spectacular locations is similar to the talents of designers and advertising artists. The New York graffiti artist Futura 2000 was one of the first street artists of the '80s who made the leap from the street to the art gallery. He exhibited around the world, and his paintings sold splendidly. Yet he still retained his credibility among his former comrades-in-arms because he continued to work for a mass public—by designing album covers for the Mo'Wax label or accompanying The Clash on tour and spray-painting pictures on the stage. During his active graffiti years, Futura 2000 collaborated with, among others, Dominique Philbert (alias “Ero”), a famous graffiti artist whose "Wild Style" canvases can be found in the Deutsche Bank Collection as well as in the Ludwig Collection.




Ero, Funky, Fast and New!!!, 1984,
Deutsche Bank Collection


The two shooting stars of the New York art scene of the eighties, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, also began their careers on the street and in the legendary street art exhibition of 1980, the Times Square Show. It was Haring's first encounter with graffiti artists, and it was an experience that left a deep impression on him. Afterwards, the artist began drawing his anarchic cartoon chalk figures on blackened ads in subway stations. They quickly became icons of New York City life. Hardly a year passed before the art market became aware of the phenomenon and Haring was asked by gallery dealers to create canvases and prints. In the mid-eighties, he also made video clips for MTV and ran his own shop in New York—the Pop Shop, where he sold his art in the form of T-Shirts and multiples.




Keith Haring, Untitled, 1983, © The Estate of Keith Haring,
Deutsche Bank Collection


Jean-Michel Basquiat had already left the street art scene in 1982 and was shown as a "serious artist" in museum exhibitions around the world. The ex-graffiti artist, who in the late seventies had filled the streets of Manhattan with philosophical slogans signed with the pseudonym SAMO, owed his career leap not least to his excellent connections to Andy Warhol and the curator Henry Geldzahler. Basquiat's painting bore the influence of his graffiti days — in the rough, simplified pictures, the slogan-like pop images, and the rapid, erratic brushstroke.



Keith Haring, Untitled, 1983, © The Estate of Keith Haring,
Deutsche Bank Collection

The fact that it is now possible to write a genealogy of street art, an art history of graffiti, is due to the fact that the phenomenon has been extensively documented more or less since its beginnings. Not just daily newspapers and photographers like Jamel Shabazz, who walked the streets of Harlem and the Bronx in the seventies and immortalized the young New York Hip Hop movement in the eighties, have contributed to the spread of street art. The artists themselves have always recorded the fruits of their nighttime endeavors. Banksy has published several illustrated volumes. His London gallery dealer Steve Lazarides, who also represents other popular artists like D*Face and the Faile group, has a simple explanation for this: "If you can't afford a canvas, then you should at least be able to take a book or a poster print home."



Jamel Shabazz, Man and Dog, 1980,
Deutsche Bank Collection
Courtesy of the artist

One young artist who skillfully plays with these modes of documentation is Alexandre Orion. The Brazilian sprays his pictures on building walls and waits until passers-by begin to interact with the art. That's when he takes his photograph. The results are works that blend the artwork and its reception, painting and photography. Even if Orion's pictures can seem like an ironic stab at a photography in love with itself and the narcissism of some street artists, he also, of course, wants to become famous with his art. The old graffiti artist saying still goes: "The name of the game is fame," and this fame always depends on your own name (brand). Even if a phantom lies concealed behind it.



Alexander Orion, from the series "Metabiotics", 2006,
Deutsche Bank Collection

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