The beauty of street art is that it is extremely accessible to people unfamiliar with the art world; it allows anyone from any background to view art without feeling intimidated. In Notting Hill, street art is seen as more than just spray paint. In recent years the area has embraced the genre by playing host to a handful of street art events. While galleries specialising in street art have sprung up all over the area, as the demand for it increases.
Since the 1980s, the area under the Westway (the dual carriageway that passes over Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove) has been a popular place for Britain’s burgeoning street culture. More recently, it has become a space used for legal artwork to be shown. In August 2010, urban art event Shift-Work was held at the Portobello Road end of the Westway. The exciting project saw street artists from London, and further afield, ‘clocking in’ for an allotted time to create works of art in the vast, urban space. The live street art project was open for viewing throughout the week and gave a unique and rare opportunity for the public to see street artists such as Pure Evil, Blek Le Rat and Copyright at work.
Similarly, in 2009, Joe Rush returned to the Westway with the MuTate Britain:One Foot in the Grove gallery of radical techno art and graffiti, in the former Acklam Road adventure playground bays off Portobello Road. Banksy continued the Westway graffiti tradition with his Che Guevara monkeys on the Portobello Road railway bridge proclaiming: 'Nuclear waste fades your genes'. There’s also an early 'Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge' Banksy monkey gracing the wall by The Elgin along Ladbroke Grove. Also famously, at the 2004 Notting Hill Carnival, Banksy £10 notes, featuring Princess Diana’s head instead of the Queen’s, were thrown into the crowd. While the following year saw his Crude Oils show at 100 Westbourne Grove, which featured live rats running around the gallery.
Notting Hill now boasts several galleries and spaces dedicated to street art. Grenade Art Gallery once specialised in urban art, whilst urban art gallery-cum-shop Graffik London opened in Notting Hill over two years ago and is fast becoming a hub for the urban art scene. With a “legal” wall for artists to share their work, Graffik exhibits some of the best street artists in the world.
No longer all derided as criminals and vandals but lauded for their creations, it seems London, and in particular Notting Hill, is finally seeing the beauty in street art.
Graffik Art Gallery, 284 Portobello Road, W10 +44 208 354 3592 graffikgallery.com