The majority of the works in graffiti and street art has always been produced outside of the institutional art system with its galleries and museums, curators and art critics, collectors and dealers. But considering the activities of UGA (United Graffiti Artists) and NoGA (Nation of Graffiti Artists) in New York during the early 1970s; graffiti as a part of the post-modernist art-scene in the mid 1980s; recent exhibitions at prestigious museums (such as Art in the Streets at MoCA in Los Angeles, 2011), and street artists such as Swoon and Banksy whose work often are exhibited at high end galleries and/or sold at international auction houses – it is obvious that graffiti and street art also have an institutional history.
The often highly opinionated debate within graffiti and street art communities regarding the institutional activities indicate a complex relationship between the non-institutional artistic production and institutions. Many rule out any such activity as fake or based on pure exploitation. Others hail it, e.g. as an acknowledgement of the movements’ artistic legacies. But very few consider it as a history in its own right, with its own complex logics. It seems deemed to play the role of the Other, in the real – non-institutional – history of street art.
This paper is an attempt to take this institutional history into serious and non-judgmental consideration, by asking the following questions:
a) Which actual institutional activities with links to graffiti and street art are traceable?
b) What types of relationships is possible to identify between specific artists, institutions and the non-institutional tradition?
c) What results may these institutional activities have had on the non-institutional production, for example in terms of artistic influence or on the understanding of graffiti and street art among a wider public?
Lisbon Street Art and Urban Creativity International Conference (3rd, 4th and 5th of July 2014)