Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V&A

As the existing exhibition currently being displayed by the Dockyard in their new facility No.1 Smithery, I managed to join the group on the day of a visual intervention workshop run by ex-students Tom Stanley and Steve Gray. This was in addition to discussion held by GD practical and theory tutors.

Having studied urban interventions and street associated styles and imagery a couple of times now, I feel I had a sound grounding for attending the exhibition without being quite as clueless as I normally am.

Photographs of in the exhibition were monitored extremely carefully by attendants, but the design of the exhibition space has proved to be a point of significance than I normally considered, days after visiting any exhibition.

As the photos illustrate, for a display about street art there was very little of the street left in the presentation of the work. Whether this is to (as was discussed) conform to the standards and presentation we expect in somewhere like a gallery is debatable. It would seem to be a hollow nod to the origins and life-blood of the genre, if its ground breaking introduction to audiences typically of a different environment if it were completely ‘legitimised’. Like I do, I had a good tap and feel of the materials they used to construct this wall of information and found to my disappointment that it was thin cardboard. It sounded hollow with a lacquered finish on the surface courtesy of the gloss paint and texture. I don’t know what I expected, but maybe I wanted it to have some actual weight-qualities to it, since it was meant to be a wall. I suppose it summed up my feelings to a degree- a brilliantly stained and textured/coloured wall could have really brought something native to the artwork, but it was made polite and more formal for what I suspect is the taste and approval of a larger audience.

Just don’t get me wrong, I think the wall is a pretty neat solution in many respects!        But, while sounding like an old woman, I’m aware that my gripes are mostly part of my steadily growing interest in exhibition design. I have another entry waiting to happen in the wings, from the images I took at Hampton Court Palace of the ingenious methods they’ve utilised to display otherwise very stale information in an unusual and highly print decorative way.

Yet how far could they have gone in making it more Street? The artwork had already been made more polite by its removal from the environment it was conceived and born into! Is ‘going straight’ and selling out to make prints, a better way of reaching more people? After all, some of the work associated in topical interventions are relevant and worthy of discussion And so the discussion continued in this way…


Maidstone GD blog- photos of the First Years spraying away

The Historic Dockyard website for Street Art

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