New York’s street art might not stay the same for very long, but the artists who come to showcase their work here ensure that neighborhoods are never bare. Anything and everything is a canvas here, including alleyways, security gates and construction trailers.
Witness community coming together at The Bushwick Collective
Joe Ficalora, a lifelong resident of Bushwick, refers to himself as an “accidental curator.” Ficalora started commissioning the murals as a way to reclaim the neighborhood from the painful memories of his past, including his father’s murder and mother’s death from brain cancer. What began as a neighborhood party in 2011 to raise money for children with brain tumors has since turned into a multi-street project where business owners donate their wall space and artists contribute time and supplies. There are currently around 50 murals, and the number is constantly growing. Artists include Nychos, Blek le Rat, Cost, Mast, Buff Monster and many more.
The 100 Gates Project is the brainchild of NYC skateboarder Billy Rohan. The venture, which is in collaboration with the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, sees artists paired with local businesses to create designs that are painted onto shop security gates, turning the neighborhood into an open-air gallery that emerges at night. The project has now expanded outside of the Lower East Side to include East Harlem, North Shore on Staten Island and the Little Caribbean (Flatbush) area of Brooklyn.
On the corner of Houston and the Bowery is a concrete wall slab with a lot of history. In 1982, Keith Haring painted a mural here, which is considered the artist’s first large-scale public work. The site was a source of illegal graffiti and various commercial advertisements, until in 2008 when Jeffery Deitch and the wall’s owner Tony Goldman (a real-estate developer) began commissioning murals. They have since collaborated with artists including Shepard Fairey, RETNA, Kenny Scharf, AIKO, OSGEMEOS and many others.
Pay tribute to a legendary rapper at the Big Pun Mural
Art Gallery, Memorial
Since the Bronx Graffiti Wall of Fame was torn down to accommodate new residential high-rise buildings, the Big Pun Memorial Mural has become the go-to site for street art in the area. The famed TATS CRU created the sprawling mural in tribute to Big Pun, the Bronx-born and first Puerto Rican hip-hop artist to go platinum. Every year on Big Pun’s birthday in November, the wall gets an update.
In 2011, Lower East Side residents Jonathan Neville and Pebbles Russell sought to combat the negative impacts of construction sites by transforming a trailer that functioned as a temporary office into a rotating street gallery. The project began with artists taking it in turn to paint the trailer every two months. Years later, the Centre-fuge Public Art Project encompasses trailers around New York City and Miami. The project has beautified construction sites and transitional spaces while empowering local communities.
In the middle of the galleries, shops and trendy restaurants of the Lower East Side is an easily missed alley leading to Freemans Restaurant. Thanks to its inconspicuous location – out of view and unlikely to be whitewashed – illegal graffiti in the form of tags, stenciling, wheatpasting (affixing posters using a sticky water and wheat flour substance) and murals have proliferated. Freeman Alley has become a canvas for Hanksy, ASVP and myriad up-and-coming artists.
Founded in 1980 by Ray Rodriguez, AKA Sting Ray, the Graffiti Hall of Fame at the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex in East Harlem was meant to give artists a safe environment to hone their skills and display their talents. These days, the site’s motto is “Strictly Kings or Better,” with professional graffiti artists from around the world vying for a precious spot on the wall. While exploring El Barrio, an area of East Harlem rich in cultural history, you will find art on every corner, from yarn-bombed flowers on chain-link fences to murals celebrating the lives of Latin music legends. Be sure to stop by El Museo del Barrio for even more insight into the neighborhood.
Check out Nick Walker’s world-renowned ‘Love Vandal’
Born in Bristol, England, Nick Walker is an artist known for his part in the Stencil Graffiti movement. He established his name in the United States following an artist residency at the Quin Hotel in New York. He has since sold out shows in London and LA, where collectors waited in line for over 24 hours to be among the first to get his latest print editions. His work often features a dapper gentleman in a bowler hat known as The Vandal. In a nondescript parking lot on the corner of 17th Street and Sixth Avenue, you will find Love Vandal, his tribute to New York.
Since the destruction of 5Pointz (a renowned graffiti spot in Long Island City), the Welling Court Mural Project has become the go-to destination for street art in Queens. In 2009, Welling Court resident Jonathan Ellis connected with Ad Hoc Art to spruce up his neighborhood. There are around 130 murals painted by a mix of legendary artists and emerging talents, including Abe Lincoln Jr, Kid Lew, Praxis, SpazeCraft, Royal KingBee, TooFly and more.