Street art has developed a cult following in London. You don’t need to go far to find signature scrawlings by famous artists such as the Burning Candy Crew and Banksy. But street art, by its nature, is constantly changing; it can be removed or covered, added to or simply worn away. Nothing is permanent when it comes to graffiti and that is part of the charm. These three areas of London are real hotspots for street artists, so no matter when you go there will always be something to see.
Once you switch off your senses from the lively street vendors and wafts of freshly baked bagels, focus your vision on the alleyways and empty yards surrounding Brick Lane. It’s here that a world of paintings unravel before your eyes. As you stroll down White Church Lane, you become aware of oddly placed eyes, noses, and mouths resembling the work of Picasso. This kaleidoscope of colourful faces continues up the surrounding streets and you soon realise the human figure is a common factor in the street art of this neighbourhood. In-between iron gates and shop shutters, Alice Pasquini’s pastel coloured people catch your eye. When you spot eerie faces by Anthony Lister, you immediately think of The Joker. When you find the impressive mural of Usain Bolt in Sclater Street and Ben Slow’s laughing Queen of Spitalfields—a giant interpretation of pub landlady Sandra Esquilant—you’re relieved to find these portraits look a lot friendlier.
As you hop off the tube at Old Street Station, you have your Banksy radar switched on. It’s not long before you find Rivington Street, home to two pieces of Banksy’s street art: a man and his poodle, and a fox with an upturned shopping trolley. At the junction with Great Eastern Street, the disused Foundry building has become a street art hot spot. There’s a lot to take in here, but an inquisitive weasel by Roa and some strange creature-esque beings by Phlegm really stand out. Now you head down Great Eastern Street and the next piece you see is Stik’s giant childlike stick man. You walk a little further and find a colourful depiction of Queen Elizabeth, close to the famous Super Pope piece by the same artist, Maupal. Her Majesty is sitting cross-legged in a yoga pose in front of a London Underground ‘Mind the Gap’ sign. Street art definitely has a sense of humour here.
Camden has been an artistic melting pot for years. Rubbing shoulders with the crowds of Camden Lock Village, you notice the market vendors’ colourful sheds are in fact covered with incredible street art. Feeling mesmerised by the unique lines of German street artist Kef, you spot one of Dale Grimshaw’s distinct tribal-painted faces staring down at you. Following the British Union Jack mural along Haven Street, you make your way to the Oxford Arms pub on the High Street to find Gnasher’s green-hued mural of the late John Lennon. And because this is Camden, murals of another pop legend, Amy Winehouse, are never far away.
Finding street art can be a real adventure. Start with these three areas and see what works—old and new—you can discover.