Arguably the birthplace of the modern street art movement, any fan of the graffiti art scene simply has to visit New York at some point in their travels. Few cities have done more over the years to foster and nurture the booming street art scene. Indeed, the famous New York graffiti boom of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, is widely acknowledged as the genesis of the modern movement. So, if you’re a fan, you simply must visit the place where it almost all began. And with decades of history under its belt, there are plenty of spectacular street artworks to enjoy during your visit - from the iconic Bowery Mural Wall to the famous Graffiti Hall of Fame in East Harlem. Read on for a taster of just some of the street art sites you can explore during your travels around New York City.
1. Saint Nicholas Avenue, Brooklyn
In Saint Nicholas Avenue, they take their street art seriously. So much so, in fact, that this Brooklyn neighbourhood has a global reputation for the quality of its work - with artists from all over the world flocking to this area for the chance to add their pieces to the streetscape. The Bushwick Collective, which is based at the north-western end of the street, champions the art which adorns walls of dozens of nearby city blocks, offering tours and helping people learn about some of the local artists. It even hosts a free festival every year which celebrates this modern art form. The Bushwick Collective Block Party is now in its eighth year and features everything from street art being created to live performances and a host of vendors, food and drink. So when I say it’s a block party, I’m serious.
The Bushwick Collective
Address: Saint Nicholas Avenue, Brooklyn
2. High Line park, lower Manhattan
One of the more recent additions to the New York public park scene, the High Line park quickly established itself as an iconic part of the city. This unique 1.5-mile (2.33km) long linear park - the first section of which only opened to the public as recently as 2009 - follows the elevated track-bed of a former New York Central Railroad spur. Its unique character - a literal park in the ‘sky’ above the streets of the city - has made it a true must-see sight for locals and visitors alike. And not only do you get to enjoy mesmerising views of the city, you can also enjoy some choice street artworks into the bargain. Artists from across the globe have added their works to walls overlooking the park over the years, after being invited to do so by The Friends of the High Line art collective.
High Line park
Address: New York, NY 10011
3. Park Avenue, Manhattan
Perfectly-placed for a short detour during a visit to Central Park, the Graffiti Hall of Fame on Park Avenue and the corner of East 106th Street is one of Manhattan’s most famous spots for street art. This schoolyard in Harlem has been a popular spot for graffiti writers going right back to the early days of the art form. Its growing popularity among the movement led to community leaders adopting it as the city’s official Graffiti Hall of Fame. Today it attracts graffiti artists from all over the world, tempted by the site’s motto “Strictly Kings and Better”, which urges only the very best artists to place their mark. Those to have risen to the challenge have included the likes of Delta, Flight and Skeme. Such is its popularity that the site plays host to an annual community festival which encourages global talents to visit and produce new works.
Graffiti Hall of Fame
Address: Park Avenue, New York, NY 10029
Williamsburg is a thriving hot spot for this colourful and spectacular art-form. Some spectacular artists have left stunning creations dotted about the neighbourhood for people to find. Kobra’s mural celebrating influential artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol - itself based on an iconic photograph from the 1980s - is just one of the sublime examples that can be found. In this case, if you head to the corner of North 9th Street and Bedford. Another spot worth checking out is a massive mural by Mr Brainwash which adorns the entire side of a luxury apartment complex on Roebling Street between North 10th Street and North 9th Street. Its intricate and colourful pop art-inspired design features homages to a host of cultural touchstones, including the men behind the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge - designer John Roebling and son Charles - whose famous structure also makes an appearance. And these are by no means the only works you’ll find when out exploring this neighbourhood.
Address: Roebling Street. New York, NY 11211
5. Coney Art Walls
Time your visit right and you’ll be treated to spectacular open-air art exhibits being created near the famous Coney Island boardwalk, beach and amusements. Coney Art Walls combines street art with the gallery experience at 3050 Stillwell Avenue - and the result is dozens of stunning works that wow visitors, with new creations added every summer. This self-styled ‘Outdoor Museum of Street Art’ featured no fewer than 35 different wall projects in 2018, by talented artists from New York and far-flung corners of the world. Past exhibits have included works by the TATS CRU, John Ahearn, Nychos and Sam Vernon. And its prime location near the beach means it has proven extremely popular, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.
Coney Art Walls
Address: 3050 Stillwell Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224
6. East 124th Street, East Harlem
Head for East Harlem and the area around East 124th Street is another spot worth checking out. There are murals dotted about all over the place, from some by noted artists such as James De La Vega (see picture) to others that were led by community involvement. A striking example of the latter is the Peace Place Mural, which covers the entire side of a building and was created by children and staff from the Creative Arts Workshop for Homeless Children. It depicts their idea of a perfect world - a sentiment as moving as the final creation.
East 124th Street
Address: East 124th Street, New York
7. Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
The wider Williamsburg area is home to all manner of street art installations, but if you visit Wythe Avenue, you’ll not only find examples for the art (see picture) but you’ll find one non-profit organisation involved in some of the city’s community creations. Urban Art Projects was set up to help organise public art exhibitions and education-led projects across the city, the most recent of which saw one of Brandon Ballengée’s “Love Motel For Insects" pieces permanently installed at The Point in the South Bronx. That may not exactly be within easy reach during a trip to the Wythe Avenue area, but what you will find during your visit to the hip Williamsburg neighbourhood are local tours of street art - including one based just one block over in Nassau Avenue.
Address: Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
8. 11-98 Welling Court, Queens
A fine example of a neighbourhood coming together to use street art to transform their community for the better. Welling Court’s Mural Project in Queens was first set up a decade ago when people living around Welling Court invited Ad Hoc Art to create an artistic vision to improve the appearance of the area. The first mural was started in December 2009 and within just five months more than 40 murals had popped up. Since then the community-backed project has grown further and today more than 140 different murals from local and international artists can be enjoyed at sites across the neighbourhood. And these free-to-enjoy artworks have become such a success that the project has drawn widespread interest - including from major news outlets.
11-98 Welling Court
Address: 11-98 Welling Court, Queens
9. 910 Rogers Place, Bronx
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Home of one of the Bronx’s most iconic murals, 910 Rogers Place is the location of a memorial artwork in honour of the hip-hop artist Big Pun. Created by the noted Bronx-based TATS CRU graffiti artists, this tribute to the Puerto Rican musician - who was the first Latino solo rapper to have an album go platinum - is refreshed every November 10th to mark the star’s birthday.
Big Pun memorial
Address: 910 Rogers Place, Bronx
10. The Bowery Mural Wall
One of the most famous street art locations in New York, the Bowery Mural wall at 76 East Houston Street has been decorated by noted graffiti artists for years. It all began back in the early 80s with work by celebrated pop art and graffiti artist, Keith Haring. Following vandalism of the piece, the wall’s owner - Goldman Global Arts - and curator Jeffrey Deitch joined forces to encourage celebrated artists from all over the world to add their own efforts to the site - and it all snowballed from there. Today a rotation of artists bring new works to the wall every four to six months, so depending on the frequency of your visits to New York, there’ll always be something new to enjoy.
The Bowery Mural Wall
Address: 76 East Houston Street, Manhattan
What striking designs will you discover?
A city as huge, and as closely linked to the street-art scene as New York, boasts a nearly inexhaustible number of locations to visit if you’re looking to enjoy fine works by talented artists. This list provides a taste of what is out there. What will you discover?
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