Wednesday, April 24, 2013

OI YOU! Adelaide Urban Art Festival

Banksy: “When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires.” At least, that’s what Banksy thought back in 2006.

These days the world’s most famous street artist is included within those trophy cabinets, one of which is on its way to Adelaide for your perusal. Oi You!’s main attraction is the collection of 70 works by ‘the world’s urban art megastars’ owned by New Zealand collector George Shaw. Whatever the collection’s current market value, it’s sure to go up after Oi You! has raised its profile.
Street art has been on a funny journey over recent years. The counter culture with roots in vandalism has become the bargain ingredient of urban renewal and the most reliable way for any major art gallery to capture a youth audience. As the fame of street art has grown and its contradictions thickened, most artists have continued along the path towards ‘legitimacy’ where large commissioned murals replace illegal graffiti. Festivals funded by energy drinks, videos produced by fashion magazines and murals commission by car companies have become the hallmarks of success in the industry of urban art. As artists hold financially lucrative exhibitions, their work on the street starts to function as advertising for their commercial ventures. For some, illegal graffiti was just the early stage in their careers as urban artists. For others, street art’s greatest power will always be its ability to question the value of private property and expand the scope of free expression within public space.
While conservative minds still perceive street art as the cure against graffiti, those who actually make street art realise its ability to cure conservative perceptions. On one level, liking street art makes it harder to dislike graffiti. Once you realise that the same artists are making both types of art, you have to stop and think.
But urban art’s greatest power is its ability to cure the fallacy that art is a luxury, belonging only to financial elites. Street art is free. Appearing spontaneously in public space means it belongs to all of us. As part of our everyday experience of the city it doesn’t require the protection of art institutions, the pretenses of official art theory or even the standard narrative of art history. In the tradition of the situationists, the urban art community is a separate entity from the art world.
The best thing about any festival like Oi You! is the effect it will have on the city. Thanks largely to the initiative of local artist Matt Stuckey, the city streets will soon play host to Anthony Lister, Rone and Beastman, three Australian artists whose work is already recognised globally. Behind the scenes they’ll be connecting with local artists for the first time and uncommissioned collaborations will appear. It’s this work that will capture the attention of the larger urban art community via the blogs that serve audiences around the world.
So if you have a spare wall in the city that’s facing a public space, the last week of April might be the perfect opportunity to start you’re own street art collection. Just give Matt Stuckey a call and make him an offer. Obviously you’ll have to share your wall with everyone else and you won’t be able to sell it, but that’s kind of the point.
Oi You! Adelaide Urban Art Festival
Adelaide Festival Centre
Saturday, April 20 to Sunday, June 2
Please note: The list of contributing artists continues to grow with additional new walls from Kab 101, Vans The Omega, Fredrock, Seb Humphreys, Gary Seaman, Jayson Fox, Yarnbombers, Matt Stuckey and an art giveaway by Rawhide.

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