Graffiti used to be considered vandalism and was a telltale sign that an area was a little bit run-down. Today (thanks in part to gentrification), the tables have turned. Street art has become a must-have for property developers. Instead of covering up colourful pieces of graffiti, they are now preserving and even commissioning it.
Growing desire for graffiti
Street art has become popular over the past few years with blogs, online TV shows and even tours celebrating London's graffiti scene. However, this love of graffiti has brought about a couple of legal disputes in previous years. A Banksy piece called ‘Slave Labour’ was illegally removed from a wall in 2003 and shipped to Miami. Restaurant chain McDonald’s also found itself in hot water recently after using a New York street artist's work to decorate a restaurant without permission.
Developing around graffiti
London's developers love to capitalise on trends, and street art is no different. Pieces of art are being moved for maximum effect and exposure. For example, Sartoria House in Notting Hill features a Banksy piece which was moved from a nearby building to the first floor of the property. The Stage in Shoreditch, by Galliard Homes, features pop art drawings by D*Face in its marketing suite.
It's all about the aesthetics
The trend started across the pond. In 2012, Toll Brothers were developing a condominium in Brooklyn. They found graffiti facing into what would become the block's internal courtyard. Instead of getting in touch with their neighbour and cleaning it off, they left it. The developers felt that it didn't just reflect the neighbourhood's history, it ‘looked really cool’ too. This acceptance of graffiti as an aesthetic enhancement has continued to grow ever since.
Temporary works of art
One of the places you're likely to see colourful street art is on hoardings – the temporary wooden panels that hide construction sites from the street. These panels are tempting for vandals, so developers have been staying one step ahead. They ask local artists to jazz them up. Peabody Housing Association in London are a famous example, and the panels are now on sale for upwards of £432,000.