Street art is the term used for independent art that is created in public spaces to attract public attention. These artworks can mainly be found across urban environments; from sidewalks and sides of buildings to shutters and derelict sites.

Street art also referred to as guerrilla art, post-graffiti or neo-graffiti usually carries a simple social or political ideology. It is often compared to graffiti as an art form, mainly because of its choice of urban canvas. Although graffiti has played a major role in its development; it can be more closely aligned to other forms of media, pop art and graphic design.

The main difference is that this art form is usually official and commissioned unlike most graffiti. The biggest difference between street art vs graffiti is that street art is usually conducted with permission whereas grafitti isnt. Sometimes it can even be commissioned. Graffiti is tends to use words wheras street art generally uses images.

Today, street art has only a tenuous resemblance to the illegal graffiti culture from which it arose. While both make comments in public settings, graffiti emphasizes the written word while street art emphasizes the visual. As a result, street art can increasingly be found in galleries and museums, below we look at the history of this art form.

Street Art Timeline

1920s the birth of street art?


Diego Riviera, one of Mexico’s most well-known painters, is also a key figure in Mexican muralism, the art of painting murals on public walls. The paintings, which were commissioned by the Mexican government and can still be found on practically every public building in Mexico, often carry nationalistic overtones. Muralismo has been shunned by many protest-oriented graffiti artists.



Photographer Brassai taking photos of graffiti that could be found on the streets of Paris; a long before it made its way to New York.


Brazil’s Pixação protest: During the military dictatorship in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 1964 to 1985, illegal wall painting began. Pixaço began as a protest movement that sprayed tags and phrases on large structures in a cryptic manner. One of the tasks was to reach the tops of tall structures, so adventurous climbing was on the menu. Pixaço had a significant influence on Latin America’s street art culture.

Hungarian street photographer Brassa published a picture book about Grafitti.


New York

Colorful graffiti on the walls were a common sight in New York in the 1970s.

Buenos Aires

Stencil art developed in importance in Argentina’s street art scene as spraying became a method of protest against the military junta that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. Stencils were useful because the work had to be completed rapidly in order to avoid arrest. Following the economic crisis of 2001, street art resurfaced, particularly in Buenos Aires. Many of the vibrant pieces of street art were created by invited artists.


They were recognized by the art world at large quite early on, and artists such as Keith Haring began to apply the techniques used in the graffiti scene. He began his Subway Drawings series in December 1980 and continued it through 1985.

New York was the core of the graffiti craze, as it was the city that popularized the art form and introduced street art into the mainstream. The 1984 picture book “Subway Art,” which depicted the artistic tags scribbled on the sides of subway vehicles, was pivotal in the art’s wider adoption. The film “Wild Style,” released the same year, linked the art form to hip hop culture.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

In the 1980s Basquiat conquered the New York gallery scene. He disagreed with the graffiti scene, which is why he was frequently associated with claiming that he is not a graffiti artist. Nonetheless, he used their method in his art.

As a sort of anti-graffiti, his tag, SAMO, has been sprayed on walls all across New York. Even now, his classification in art history books is contentious.


At the end of the 1970s, Harald Naegeli became known as the “Sprayer from Zurich.” After being captured and prosecuted in 1981, Naegeli fled to Germany. He was extradited to Switzerland in 1984 and served a six-month sentence. He is still regarded as one of Europe’s founding fathers of the scene due to his politically oriented street art.

The Berlin Wall

In the 1980s, it was realized that the Berlin Wall was the ideal canvas for graffiti. Artistic graffiti was created from scribbles on the wall; the northern section, in particular, became a playground for American-style graffiti. Following Germany’s reunification, 118 foreign artists were hired to adorn the remaining wall on Mühlenstraße in Berlin.


London: is a city that is constantly monitored. This has had an impact on the graffiti culture, as tags and written graffiti are frequently placed up “fast and filthy” – in an aggressive manner. After Banksy’s work became more well-known in the art world in 2000, a turf war erupted, with some graffiti artists labelling the unoriginal street art that followed as “art fags.”

Street art makes its way into museums

Although the messages of his work stand for the contrary message – autonomous political content – the artist Banksy marked a turning point in the commercialization and popularization of this artform. Some praised him for his breakthrough in the institutional art world while others slammed him.

First street art goes on sale

When Sotheby’s auctioned Banksy’s debut painting in 2005, it brought in nearly double the projected price. Celebrity collectors like Brad Pitt catapulted the artist to fame, and three years later, the first Banksy to sell for more over $1 million took place. With or without the artist’s permission, galleries are increasingly displaying images by Banksy and his contemporaries.

Street Art Tourism

In this selfie-obsessed era, city tourists adore street art. Tours of Germany’s capital city that focus on this highlights have grown extremely popular, in addition to the customary visit to Berlin’s East Side Gallery. Meanwhile, other cities have picked up on the trend and started offering these excursions as well.

In Germany, nearly every medium-sized city has its own urban art gallery. However, infotainment events like the magic city series, a major event marketed as “fun for the whole family,” are relatively new. The event, which was previously hosted in Dresden, will now be held in Munich in 2017. However, the question remains: can street art be used as a form of family entertainment? Would that have made sense to the company’s founders?

Most expensive street art sold at auction

In 2021 Banky’s Game Changer sells for £16,758,000 in the UK, breaking the artist’s previous World Auction Record. The proceeds from the sale will support variuos health and charity organizations in the UK

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