"The world is not a rectilinear world, it is a curvilinear world. The heavenly bodies go in a curve because that is the
natural way..."

-- George Bernard Shaw

"I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein."

-- Oscar Niemeyer

Saturday, 11 October 2014

23. The Newest Architectural Feature?

The discipline of architecture doesn't, technically speaking, include street art. Or colloquially speaking. Or any way of speaking, for that matter. And yet, neighbourhoods and even individual buildings are increasingly being judged by their street art.

Of course, many neighbourhoods, homes and buildings are perfectly beautiful the way they were built. You wouldn't, for example, want to further adorn the Burj Khalifa, Chrysler Building or Petronas Towers. 

But if you happen to be the owner of a relatively modern, but somewhat banal building, street art can add a distinct dash of splash:

Apartment in Valencia, Spain. Artist: Julieta.

Apartment in Gdansk Poland.
 photo via mrpilgrim.co.uk
A little street art here and there can be the first step in renewing an impoverished area and boosting neighbourhood pride:
Apartment in working-class Barcelona district.

Building in gentrifying Valencia neighbourhood. Artist: Ericailcane.
And it won't even cost cash-strapped governments a nickel. In some cases, landlords commission the work; in others, artists (not exactly wealthy themselves) pick up the tab for materials and contribute their time. In a better world, community funding would underwrite both craftsman and supplies.

That may not be as direct as tackling the root causes of poverty, but you have to start somewhere. Besides street art can act as a community revenue stream, flowing tourists dollars to local stores, galleries and restaurants; and attracting investment dollars with which to create better facilities.

Street art can do big things, like promoting a country's cultural identity:

Dancer on the outside wall of a Valencia Flamenco restaurant.
Artist: Paloma Cort

Or small things, like offering up a bit of humour to someone having a bad day:

 Gentrifying Valencia Neighbourhood.
Artist: Luis Montolio
As Banksy once said, “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don't come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they're having a piss.” 
Now let's be truthful, not all street art is beautiful or attractive. Just because some idiot knows how to buy a can of spray paint and write his name on a wall doesn't make it art, or make him Picasso.

By the same token though, I can take you into just about any art gallery in the world and show you paintings worth millions that I wouldn't hang on my bathroom door. Yes, I'm talking about you Barnet Newman and your $1.8 million con job on the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa:

Voice of Fire

Now, don't get me wrong. I like modern art as much as the next guy. In fact, probably more than the next guy. Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Dali, Warhol they're my main men. When I see a masterpiece by one of them I get positively stoked. (Wait a minute, I'm 62-years-old - I gotta stop talking like that!)

But let's face it, if you could only look at one piece of art for the rest of your life, which would you choose? This one by Mark Rothko:

Or this one by Julieta:

To me it's a no brainer.