Beyond the Streets at the Saatchi Gallery
An exhibition dedicated to street art is taking over the Saatchi Gallery building in its entirety. Curated by Roger Gastman, Beyond the Streets comes to London (after being successfully held in NY and LA) with an extensive display of murals, graffitied items, posters, installations and a wide range of memorabilia associated with the movement. Huge in size and scope, the show spans over several decades and encompasses peripheral overlapping themes such as music and sportswear (Adidas is a sponsor).
Brimming with fascinating stories and interesting facts, each room focuses on a different aspect of the medium. The first section looks at London, with a photograph of one of the earliest iconic slogans that appeared around the city: King Mob’s Same Thing painted along the Westway in the late 1960s. This message, which criticised the repetitive routines that society subjects us to, prompted reflection for many a commuter travelling on the Hammersmith and City line which runs parallel, including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
There is a big focus on music and how the careers of various bands were interlaced with the stylistic approach of street art and the anarchic spirit it stemmed from. One section details the birth of hip hop, and there’s even a pop-up records shop. Beyond this, there is an abundance of cool and funky displays, almost too much, in fact, to fully absorb and appreciate. Although so much is covered, there are great absentees – such as Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat – whose omission seems odd considering the seemingly comprehensive scope of the project.
Seeing the works of so many prominent street artists all gathered in one place is fascinating and gives a real sense of the breadth of the art form. The exhibition will doubtless delight many a keen follower of the movement and all that it involves. However, while it’s true that street art deserves an extensive display to outline its history and honour the unique input of its contributors, one cannot help feel that murals and impromptu graffiti belong in an urban context, and sit rather oddly within the pristine surroundings of a gallery. The concept itself of grouping street art works within an enclosed space goes against the very essence of what this type of artistic expression means and why it was born.
Still, in spite of this paradox, it’s a rare chance to immerse oneself in the diverse ways that this art form branched out and the many influences and links it has had with the worlds of music, fashion, sociopolitical matters, and beyond.
Beyond the Streets is at the Saatchi Gallery from 17th February until 9th May 2023. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.