Graffiti – Street vs. Studio

Most of the works from the 1980s, containing graffiti and written elements, refer to the decade of the founding of the museum when elements of urban subculture appeared in high art.

curator: Julia Fabényi

The title is not quite correct. The works displayed with the title INSERT were made only in graffiti style but not as graffiti. The terms in the title refer to two partly contradictory media: graffiti is actually the art of the street, its creator is anonymous and is motivated by the fact that it is prohibited. The panel painting is made in a studio, it does not violate public space or buildings, and it may be removed from public space only on account of its frivol content. The creators of the “graffiti” shown here are not anonymous, or use the same tag / name in the street and on the canvas.

Graffiti is typical of big cities. The first words written on the walls of houses appeared in New York at the end of the 1960s. Their creators, the so-called writers indicated their presence with characters, later with tags, and communicated with each other in gangs in an international network.

The form of expression of subculture has gotten integrated into high art and reached its peak in the 1980s. New Wave, Neue Wilde, New Expressionism in America, Western Europe, and partly in Eastern Europe, too, expressed the perception of the young generation as opposed to the restrained language of conceptual art or the transience of performative genres. Impacted by the large-size graffiti-style paintings, a group of new collectors has emerged and works have been widely marketed. In that respect, they are in contrast to the spontaneous graffiti in the street that resist consumption.

The graffiti-like works, which represent a significant segment of our collection, of which we will select works for this two-week exhibition, are often created in co-operation with studio artists and graffiti artists, or are solely works of graffiti artists. An exception to this is the work of A. R. Penck, whose restrained symbolism meant opposition to official art. The artists of the former Soviet Union might have had a similar attitude whereas the shortcuts of comic books and the fragments of a story depicted with flat figures provided covert opportunities for interpreting social imperfections.

Events accompanying the exhibition will try to help compare the art of the street with the art of the studio, to present the specificities of the genres, their contrasts and similarities. A couple of short films provide insight into the social environment in which these works were born.