Last summer in London, my niece will tell you I tortured her with art. If I tell the story, while I’m sure I should say it was an educational experience (which it was), it was actually a bit of revenge for her shopping torture I endured in Paris. At eleven, she wasn’t quite so keen on the hip, edgy and temporary displays of art in Shoreditch and Brick Lane.
I thought rather than explore the standard museums – British and Tate Modern, I would introduce her to the world of street art. I’m sure I should have cared about her feelings but frankly, Aunt Sue wanted to do just one thing in the ten days and that was the Shoreditch Street Art tour.
Having seen the street art of Melbourne, Paris and Santiago during my travels, London was next on my list. The more I learned about street art, the more fascinating it became even more so after viewing the documentary “Exit from the Gift Shop” (which is brilliant). If nothing else, street art allows you a bespoke adventure as the art on the walls today will be gone tomorrow. Just like life, the art is fleeting….
My niece and I journeyed over to Spitalfields Market, which in itself is a destination of market stalls and shops. It was a warm, sunny, blue skied June day and perfect for a walking tour. Despite visiting London many times over the years, I hadn’t been to Shoreditch (very trendy now) or Brick Lane area so in addition to the art, I would explore the neighborhoods too. Our guide met the small group of ten (we paid in cash £15 for me and £10 for my niece) and he began showing us small street art in the form of stickers along the street post.
And thus our exploration began as every surface became a canvas for artistic expression in the form of stickers, paint, yarn, large scale pieces and small modifications. Street Art becomes a game when you start trying to find it mixed into the everyday minutae of life.
For the next three hours we would turn down streets and alleys, told to look up, over and down to see the art that was hidden in plain site. For some of the art, there is no way that I would have found it without a guide or had the background to know more about the work and the artist so the guided tour was invaluable.
Just like the other street art tours in Paris and Melburne, I took hundreds of photos, unlike those tours this time I had a tween asking me “are we done yet? when can we go shopping” while I was pointing out a Banksy and trying to explain it to her. Let’s hope when she gets older it all clicks (one can hope).
I’m back in London on the way home from my European sabbatical soon and look forward to wandering the streets of London in search of more fantastic works of street art. That’s the fun of street art, it’s never the same thing twice. If you are planning a visit to London do add the Shoreditch Street Art tour to your MUST list but leave the tween at TopShop (with supervision of course)!