Part of our occasional series on alternative guided tours of the capital.
To say ‘there’s more to street art than Banksy’ is an understatement – like declaring ‘there’s more to The Simpsons than Bart’. In just two hours, the guides from Street Art London will give you an appreciation of tens of artists.
A typical tour weaves through the streets of Shoreditch and Brick Lane. You’ll see famous works by the likes of Roa and Eine, of course. But the real joy is when the guide leads you down a narrow alley to reveal eye-popping works by up-and-coming artists. And if you really want to know about Banksy, you’ll discover the locations of two or three old pieces still in existence.
We learned how diverse the street-art scene really is. Not just in its forms of expression – paste-ups, stencils, stickers, mosaic tiles, sculptures, lines of thread – but also in the motivations and politics at work behind some of the pieces. Some artists are focussed on getting gallery shows while others shun anything but the street. Some are open about their identities, while many remain anonymous. Most now work with permission, but some do not.
The guides know many of the artists personally, and offer a real insider’s glimpse of this colourful sub-culture. At one point, we even bumped into one of the more famous artists outside a Redchurch Street bar.
The tours are fast-paced, covering plenty of ground. For a more relaxed amble, the company also offers four-hour tours on Saturdays. Weekly bike tours allow you to range much further, taking in street art up in Hackney.
Whether you keep an interested eye on London’s street art, or have never ventured further than the Banksy headlines, there’s plenty new to see on these tours, and we’re happy to recommend them.
Street Art London tours run on Tuesday (10am) and Thursday (6pm) from the Foundry in Old Street and cost £10. Saturday 4-hour trips depart at 11am and cost £15. Book here. You should also check out the street art blog from the same guys, to keep up to date.
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