WHEN builders thought they’d discovered an original Banksy in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the council responded by ceasing building work and guarding it with a perspex shield. Whether the fading ink belonged to the elusive Bristolian street artist was never confirmed, but what’s clear we’ve seen a cultural shift in attitudes towards street art.
It took some convincing (or backing down), but not all street art is considered the illicit work of masked vandals and 'hoodies' in certain areas. It’s hailed as self-expression by its creators, used for either action, art or amusement. Not all artists go nameless and Guerilla, many works are commissioned and local examples by Stewy's Stencils, Subism, Kelzo, Eurocultured and more are appreciated rather than scorned.
Sure we’re not talking about the post code war threats, or the teenage ‘Super S’ scrawled on lampposts, nor the phallic pictures with grammatically incorrect insults. No, those continue to be the eye-sores they’ve always been. Murals coloured brightly with spray can neons and cartoonish figures have been embraced tenfold in our art districts.
Here are some of the best to have survived the threat of a whitewash.
Of course we know that as soon as we publish this article it might be out of date as new paint overlays the old, but at least it reveals the diverse pageant that is the Manchester streetscene.
Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter.
The square as it looks now, may not be the same as it is tomorrow. The former public toilet is now a project space for public art sponsored by nearby art supplies shop Fred Aldous and is transformed by artists every three months.
Tib Street, Northern Quarter
Recently this spot boasted a homage to the fictional character Heisenberg from US drama Breaking Bad, by French graffiti artist Akse P.19 - around the time many were mourning the show's end. Despite its popularity it was only commissioned by the council for one month. At present the site features murals promoting feminism by One Five Eight, as part of the collectives '16 Days of Street Art Action' series.
'The Wall' Church Street
Four artists in just five days created what is widely considered one of the more striking presentations of street art in Manchester. The Ride Low bike shop was beautified by collective Subism after years of fundraising and negotiations.
The Wall, Church St
Apartment, Timber Wharf
We'd suggest not to peer through people's balconies, but it's clear this apartment was meant to be looked at and admired. On a leisurely walk through Timber Wharf you may spot this ode to Bob Marley and a derailed Manchester tram. Who knows the connection, but what a way to add a little colour to your walls.
'Look, there's a giant Blue Tit', is the typical 'ho-ho' shout when passing this mural. Commisioned by clothing brand Converse, artist Faunographic added a little nature to former warehouse and six storey building.
New Wakefield Street
The annual Eurocultured festival sees visual artists and performers pack into New Wakefield Street to create masterpieces on railway arches. Just a stones throw from from bars Font and Black Dog, it's a transfixing display of well executed street art.
New Wakefield St
The Thirsty Scholar, Off Oxford Road
Underneath the railway arches off Oxford Road, pub The Thirsty Scholar has some of the most proudly defiant graffiti art in the city. In 2011 it was ordered to get rid by the city council who deemed it 'unacceptable'. Nonetheless, the works by Thomas Dolan (who was jailed for spray painting the Wakefield Street arches in 2007) remain.
The Bridgewater Canal
Sometimes graffiti looks so illogically placed it provokes the question, 'How the hell did they get up/over/around there?'. Artist Mr Birdseed's 'Hatin Pigs Since 1985' cartoons can be found spread across an abandoned building by the Bridgewater Ship Canal.
How did they get up there?
Irwell Mural, River Irwell, Manchester Ship Canal
'With the help of local people and artists too, we created this mural for everyone to view. Cylists, rowers, runners, dogs as well, we've brightened up the River Irwell' it sweetly reads on the River Irwell, now canalised here into Manchester Ship Canal. Indeed, the designs have definitely brightened up the lengthy stretch between Castlefield and Salford Quays. Starting from one end you have bold, archetypal urban graffiti that meets cute primary school drawings by the other end.
For You Manchester
Along the Ship Canal stretch you come to the Irwell warehouse. It's emblazoned with lots of illegible street tags. It's bright, distinctively urban and hard to miss from the vantage point at Cornbrook Tram station.
Frank Sidebottom, Oldham Street and John Cooper Clarke, Blackfriars Street
Stencil artist Stewy has left his print, or rather prints, across Manchester City centre for a while now. His much-loved work features Northern heroes such as 'punk-poet' John Cooper Clarke and Frank Sidebottom.
Antwerp Mansion, Rusholme Grove, Wilmslow Road
Down a dark alleyway in Rusholme is Antwerp Mansion, a rundown Victorian house used for parties, gigs, face-painting and graffiti. Artists are allowed to express themselves all over the walls in and around the house, producing clever work in the process.
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