Imagine a gallerist bringing new art works into the gallery. She pulls her truck up to the gallery curbside, gets out, and starts taking some paintings out of the truck bed. She takes one out just as she realizes that she hasn’t unlocked the gallery doors. So, she places the artwork on the curb and sets off to unlock the gallery. This person has intentionally placed art in the street. Is it street art? Obviously not. So what makes something street art if not the art’s being intentionally placed in the street? It might even seem that street art needn’t be literally in the street at all, so long as one accepts that Blu’s MUTO and similar works are street art — as a digital video it has no literal or direct connection to the street. Street artistic status must hinge on something else. So what is it?
Street art enthusiasts seem to have a thing for destructive fanaticism, but I’m not sure they realize how destructive it can be. They exuberantly consume the latest street artworks like hungry piranhas, hyping the artist and his products until there’s nothing left but an embarrassing skeleton. They get inexplicably ramped up about artists who have produced one provocative wheatpaste or had a single clever idea.
Arts institutions often tell us to expect great things from their inhabitants. Take the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for (an extreme) example. As you approach it on Fifth Ave, the first thing you see is a monumental stair case leading up to huge doorways flanked by towering columns.
If you make it up the two dozen steps, past the columns, doors, and security, you enter a vast breathtaking atrium. This is your pre-launch prep station.
The concept of artistic collaboration is slippery. New York Magazine’s 31st reason to love New York City in 2009 is “Because Our Street Art is Collaborative.” Maybe they don’t really understand the notion of collaboration.
Depending on how a street artist uses the street they may have something to lose by moving into a gallery space. Peru Ana Ana Peru, which is composed of two artists, use the street primarily as a way of making their striking and fantastical images even more so. We are struck by a colorful image or by a traditional picture frame on a signpost. We wonder what they’re doing there, so we investigate. But a closer inspection is unhelpful: An old portrait with the face scratched out? What does “Peru Ana Ana Peru” even mean?
Much contemporary art is disappointing–street art especially. Even if you manage to find a piece you really like–or, if you’re lucky, one that is really worth liking–it gets buffed, weathered beyond recognition, hyped beyond reason, or it simply disappears. And like all art, its digital web ghost doesn’t replace the real thing. It’s really gone forever. And that’s disappointing, even if you knew it would happen all along. Still, some deaths are better than others.