Tuesday’s Article (11-09-10)

In Art, Rich, Tuesday's Article on November 9, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

The Underbelly Project:  Was It Good for Street Art?

This is a follow-up to my post yesterday suggesting to check out The Underbelly Project.  You can read the first entry here.

Image taken from


The Underbelly Project was an attempt by two graffiti enthusiasts, Workhorse and PAC, to rail against what they felt was an over-commercialization of street art culture.  While many championed this effort as a step back towards the right course for a culture built around being subversive, there was also a large contingency that felt it was just simply a step back for street art in general.

In this article I will attempt to present concise summaries of both sides of the case and let you form your own opinion.  Think of these as a cross between an opening statement in a trial and an elevator pitch.

On Behalf of the Project

Due largely to the popularity of artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, street art (graffiti, stencil art, sticker bombing, etc.) has become ingrained in mainstream culture.  When Shepard Fairey was tapped to design President Obama’s Campaign Poster, it marked a turning point for an artistic medium that has traditionally been associated with rebellion.

Graffiti is supposed to blend art and anarchy.  It’s supposed to be political satire not campaign fodder.  This project aimed to give street artists a venue for creativity far removed from the daily grind and the pressures of struggling with whether or not to strive for commercial success.

Summary Statement: The Underbelly Project sought to give a brief return to a time when street art was art for art sake not a career.

Opposition to the Project

No matter the artist or the subject matter, in theory all graffiti is supposed to share two characteristics.  First, it is a ‘public art form’, meaning it should be out there for all to see, and be able to experience in person should they desire to do so.  Second it is supposed to be temporary.  By creating a gallery in a hidden subway station where only a select few would ever be able to view it, the Underbelly Project achieves neither of these requirements.  In a way, this project creates a sort of exclusivity that pushes street art further in line with more traditional art forms, and weakens its position as a common man’s medium.

Hyperallergic makes a good point.  The Underbelly Project took street art away from the street, and the fact that it’s supposedly hidden location was infiltrated and bombed shows how misguided the project was in the first place.

Summary Statement: By attempting to take street art away from the street and violating its two biggest characteristics, The Underbelly Project introduced an air of elitism that, whether intentional or not, actually put street art more in line with other traditional art forms.

What’s your opinion here?



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