London has always been a hot spot for artists. As the political hub of the country, a media mecca and harboring 16 centuries worth of history, it’s no surprise that London is such an inspiration for artists. With well-renowned galleries like the Tate Modern, Britain and National Gallery holding some of the most prestigious collections of national and international artworks, even the least learned artist could find inspiration in London.
One aspect of London’s contemporary art scene which always turns heads but can be easily overlooked is its broad range of street art murals. Street art gives artists a chance to explore the modern cityscape and incorporate their work into it. Often known as graffiti, street art is more than just tags, and represents a new way of creating a dialogue with the man-made world around us. Needless to say, much street art has a political slant and offers a comment from the artist to the country, city or even specific area in which he’s stationed the work.
One of the most famous of these artists is Banksy. With his satirical bite and highly politicised edge, the anonymous artist is probably one of the most famous of their kind in the world. Many of his works sell for millions, and the controversy surrounding them draws even bigger crowds.
As a guide around some of London’s coolest areas, Banksy’s surviving London street art acts as one of the best guides for guests at the Shaftesbury Hotel London. If you’re looking for inspiration for your own creative endeavours, then check out these punkish murals hidden around the city.
The Rat of Tooley Street
Located just before the underpass of London Bridge, this staple of Banksy can be found in many spots across the city. This one, however, is one of the most central and offers a great insight into one of Banksy’s aim to infest the street with something that one person would call vermin, and the other a pet.
Rivington Street His Masters Voice
Located close by to some of the best London hotel family rooms, the Rivington Street art piece named His Masters Voice is one of Banksy’s earliest pieces in London. Found on one of the best lanes for street art in the city, His Masters Voice features a dog holding a bazooka at a gramophone, representing the younger liberals blowing their more conservative elders ideals sky high.
Graffiti Painter on Portobello Road
Portobello Road is already home to London’s favourite vintage market, so Banksy’s Graffiti Painter adds just a little more history to the famous street. Depicting a classic painter archetype, it shows his masterpiece to be a work of simple graffiti, no doubt implying Banksy’s outlook on art in general.
Clipstone Street Fitzrovia
Based on Clipstone Street in Fitzrovia, this Banksy reads “If graffiti changed anything it would be illegal”, whilst underneath Banksy’s famous rat stands on its hind legs. This street rt statement in one of London’s most affluent areas really packs a punch and is easy to find for Shaftesbury Hyde Park International guests looking to see a different side to one of London’s poshest neighbourhoods.
Choose Your Weapon at the Grange in Camberwell
Inspired by Keith haring’s barking dog artwork, Banksy’s Choose Your Weapon juxtaposes the art of this 90’s icon with his own photorealistic hooded teen. This think piece is based in Camberwell, a South East London area famed for its great restaurants and vibrant nightlife.
Bruton Lane Shop Till You Drop
Based on the side of an office building in the West End, this easy to miss mural depicts a falling woman with a shopping trolley, giving a literal translation of the term shop till you drop. Centrally located but inconspicuous, this is a great example of the subversive slogan use.
Chrisp Street Phone Tap
Based in Docklands Poplar area, Chrisp Street is a market area that has its very own Banksy. Walk along the Limehouse Basin and past the River Lea, and you’ll be faced with cheeky wordplay and a subtle Banksy mural, referring to the phone-hacking scandal of Rupert Murdoch in 2011.
Graffiti Wallpaper of Regents Canal
Based on Regents Canal in the Camden area, this mural is easy to reach for North West based guests at the Grand Royale Hyde Park and Paddington. The mural shows a painter painting over a piece of graffiti, and represents a slice of a wall that became the battleground between Banksy and now deceased street artist King Rob. Over a number of years, the two would paint over and compete with each other.
Very Little Help on Essex Road
Located close to Islington, this Essex Road mural depicts two children pledging allegiance to not a flag, but a Tescos bag on a flagpole. Whilst its connotations are grim, the wordplay on Tescos slogan adds a dash of humour to the dystopian nightmare.
I Love Robbo the Rat on Chiswell Street
Located in the Shoreditch area’s Chiswell Street, the original placard of the famous Banksy rat read “London doesn’t work”. During the graffiti war between Banksy and King Rob, the latter would often edit Banksy pieces around London. Whilst coined as a “war”, the results were often very humorous, and the Chiswell Street Rat is just one of the many examples of this.
Basquiat Tribute at the Barbican
The king of graffiti artists, Basquiat is held in high esteem not only in the street art world but in general as a revolutionary contemporary artist. Incorporating Basquiat’s iconic crown symbol, the Barbican based mural was installed a few days before Basquiat’s work was exhibited in the nearby complex.
Cargo Nightclub Graffiti Area
Cargo is one of the most trendy nightclubs in Shoreditch, and the Graffiti area cordoned off by Banksy’s poodle toting policeman, has been given special attention with its perspex glass case. Base din Cargo’s outside area, the club has gained even more popularity due to Banksy’s mark being left.
There are plenty more Banksy’s left around the city, and with even more expected to show up in the coming years, the artist has truly made London his own.