The Art Newspaper recently did quite a long feature on street art inspired by (and inspiring) the Arab Spring.
Anny Shaw and Gareth Harris interview “Hans Ulrich Obrist of London’s Serpentine Gallery, who is chairing a discussion on art patronage in the Middle East as part of a summit at the British Museum and the Royal College of Art (12-13 January).”
” ‘What is interesting to see in Egypt, and in all these countries, is that artists are not only going out into the city, they also become agents of change in society. … If you think about it in terms of the Russian Revolution and Mayakovsky saying “the streets are our brushes, the squares our palettes,” it’s about art going beyond the museum and blurring the boundaries between art and life.’
“Obrist also notes that there is a long-standing tradition, particularly in Egypt, of contemporary artists using the street to mount performances or install works. Indeed, several contemporary Egyptian artists, including Susan Hefuna and Hassan Khan, have used the city as a site for their work, both before and in response to the uprising. …
“As Anthony Downey, the director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, editor of ibraaz.org and a speaker at the summit says, the region has ‘antecedents in graffiti-based protests,’ citing those against the Shah of Iran before his flight from Tehran in 1979 and the graffiti and posters used in Beirut during the civil war in Lebanon.”
What a hoot that this art has been taken up by auction houses like Sotheby’s! But on the whole it’s good for the artists. I know what a great moment it was when the favela artists from Brazil were able to sell their work in the movie Waste Land.