The large Saatchi Gallery in posh Chelsea has filled its galleries with the sort of artwork usually seen on the sides of walls in derelict and regenerating areas. This is a look at how street art has transformed from something that despoils commuter trains into something that fills art galleries and sells for small fortunes.

As street art is incredibly varied, the Saatchi has roughly themed each room with a genre or handful of artists, which helps a bit in keeping your head from spinning at how much is here. It’s almost as if a collection of exhibitions have been put into one building.

The one thing the exhibition cannot shy away from, is how a lot of street art originated in what was undeniably little more than vandalism of trains, a tagging habit no more appealing than someone scribbling “I was here” to show off less the artistic ability than the ability to break into buildings.

The staircase in the gallery has been filled with tiny photos of trains covered in graffiti, and the gallery looks back, not entirely critically at the rise of painting trains, first in the USA, then in the mid-1980s onwards in London.

Most of the rooms are filled with substantial-sized works of art, and getting away slightly from the inherently two-dimensional nature of painting on a wall, there are also a number of sculptures. A huge fantasy shop fills almost an entire room, but do walk through a curtain to one side for a neon-filled corridor that’s, well, it’s very selfie-friendly.

Getting away from the huge, Tim Conlon produces miniature models of American freight trains, and then covers them in his trademark graffiti. A mock-up of a tube tunnel has been added in one room, by three artists, 10FOOT, FUME and TOK, and do look at the description label, which has 10FOOT’s own text scratched out, turning the label into a work of art itself.

One of the strangest rooms has been filled with digital walls and floors, and a series of sculptures, but the combination creates a curious effect on the eye as if parts of the space is out of focus or sharply closer than it should be. It’s a very clever optical illusion.

What may sound like an odd complaint to make about an exhibition this big is that it’s, well, it’s too big. There’s almost too much to take in on one visit without feeling exhausted at the end of it.

They needed a cafe halfway around to offer a break.

This is an indirect way of saying that this is actually a very good exhibition, having managed to bring together works from over 100 artists into one huge building-filling exhibition.

It’s not the cheapest exhibition to visit, but there’s so much to see that it’s very good value for money. You can easily spend half a day here.

The exhibition, Beyond the Streets London is open at the Saatchi Gallery until 9th May. Tickets should be booked in advance from here.

  • General tickets: £25
  • Children (6-16): £10
  • Family (2+22): £55
  • Concessions: £15

The accompanying exhibition catalogue is also very good, and almost as large as the exhibition itself (and pretty heavy to carry home). If not for you, would certainly make a good present for a street art lover.


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  1. Robin Hitchcock says:

    Did you miss the humorous Huskmitnavn cartoons? I agree that the exhibition has been brilliant.

  2. Olie Tufkut says:

    Not to mention preliminary artwork of the Beastie Boys for two of their releases.
    Also the usage of poster/record cover art for the Clash, Big Audio Dynamite and Blondie. This showing how the Manhattan art scene soaked up NY Street art in the early 80s alongside the punk era.
    Lots to enjoy as you said, many exhibitions in one. Lots to take in and appreciate for one day but make sure you read all the captions as their relevance will be better understood.

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