The age-old debate regarding the integrity of street art as a legitimate art movement has recently been reignited through the emergence of London’s latest street art mascot, Bambi.
The age-old debate regarding the integrity of street art as a legitimate art movement has recently been reignited through the emergence of London’s latest street art mascot, Bambi. As one of the first women to gain mainstream popularity in the movement, Bambi has been compared to street art superstar Banksy.
Like Banksy, she remains anonymous and has helmed a rags-to-riches narrative through her artwork. Bambi, who has “never been able to resist a blank wall,” rose to media attention after famously depicting Amy Winehouse on the streets of Camden after the singer’s untimely death. Her ascension climaxed earlier this year, when Kanye West commissioned a portrait of his socialite bride Kim Kardashian as a wedding gift, propelling her into the public eye. Alongside West, international icons such as Brad Pitt, Rihanna, Adele, and members of Take That and One Direction are also all rumoured to have paid hefty sums for Bambi’s services.
Street art as vandalism
The purchasing Bambi’s artwork for tens of thousands of pounds by popular luminaries challenges a common public perception of street art as vandalism. Street artists like Bambi or Banksy, we must also remember, are deemed criminals by law for their defacement – or alternatively, decoration – of public property. We cannot at one minute applaud the work of street artists, and then at the turn of the clock slaughter its aspirants. Personally, I was part of the consensus that street art represented harmful ideals such as territorial ganging or the disregard of property. This was, of course, until I visited Shoreditch.
The walls of Shoreditch are an open air exhibition of creativity. After perusing through the compact ephemeral pieces of art that the area had to offer, I began to realise that street art was not vandalism or defacement, but instead it stood for representing thoughts and ideas to the everyday person, with no filters or price to restrict who can view the artwork.
Through visiting the East End of London, I learned about the work of the world’s different street artists: I discovered ROA, a street artist that only sprays in black and white, who travelled from Belgium to Brick Lane to spray a giant bird on the side of a building; I discovered French artist Invader, who models his work on the pixellation of ‘70s 8-bit video games; I discovered El Mac, whose remarkable depiction of a cowboy in East London uses an intense aerosol technique to achieve; I discovered Vhils, a Portuguese artist that has started to use explosives to construct incredibly unique pieces of street art. What I discovered primarily, however, is the ability to see street art as art, to understand its meaning and its purpose. As an appreciator of literature, of poetry, of music and of film, I am ashamed that I had once dismissed such a vibrant art movement as criminal or indefensible.
Creativity should be celebrated, not shunned. The rise of artists such as Banksy or Bambi is testament to the fact that art will not cease to be beautiful. Tainting the art form as defacement has not stopped the success of these artists and has not deterred from the allure of their art. If you are a sceptic, at least take some time to acquaint yourself with the movement that you are condemning. Why not? Street art is not going to go away any time soon.