What's seen as a scourge by some could be a tourist attraction for others. Graffiti is often viewed as an eyesore at best and an invitation for crime at the worst. However, with the growing popularity of artists like Banksy and the more refined term "street art," the form is beginning to take on legitimacy in the eyes of many.
Street art in Dubai
Dubai, the glittering largest city and Asia travel hotspot in the United Arab Emirates, has gained a reputation for luxury and extravagance. That might make it a surprising candidate for a celebration of street art, but at least one group hopes that the city's cosmopolitan appeal will make it more open to the idea. Thomas Perreaux-Forrest and Stephane Valici recently opened the first street art gallery in the UAE, and perhaps the first in the Middle East, CNN reported.
The pair decided to open their gallery when they had two realizations - that it was difficult to find interesting street art in Dubai and that they might not be the only ones clamoring for it. "We realized when we were going to gallery openings here in Dubai that we couldn't really see what we enjoyed and when we found it, it was quite overpriced," Perreaux-Forrest told CNN.
By talking to gallery owners in the United States and France, Perreaux-Forrest and Valici learned that many people from Dubai were travelling to galleries in foreign countries to buy street art for their own collections. Following what was little more than a hunch, the curators decided to take a leap of faith and open the simply named Street Art Gallery, hoping that their passion was in fact shared by more of Dubai's residents.
So far, their courage has paid off, as the gallery has held numerous exhibitions featuring the work of both local and international artists. One show celebrated the style of Arabic writing by mixing calligraphy with more common forms of street art, bringing local flavor to an art form that's banned and punished on the streets of the UAE.
In from the cold
Street art is illegal when it takes the form of vandalism in Western countries as well, but it's often more looked down upon than punished, and some neighborhoods such as Miami's Wynwood openly allow it, according to CNN. It should be no surprise, then, that you're more likely to find street art gallery exhibitions in the U.S. and U.K.
One of the most imaginative examples recently appeared in Shoreditch, England's Howard Griffin Gallery. According to the gallery, Italian street artist Giacomo Bufarini, better known as RUN, has been creating pieces in the wild since at least the 1990s. However, this year marked the first time in his long career that RUN's work has been exhibited in a gallery.
RUN's exhibition, Parabola Di G, on display from Nov. 27 to Dec. 21, 2014, fills the gallery with his work. True to his origins, RUN's exhibit features both drawings on paper and pieces that burst forth to cover the gallery's white walls and specially installed structures with stark black designs in spray paint. The exhibition tells a semi-autobiographical story about RUN as the gallery show follows a single protagonist throughout its winding corridors.
Back to its roots
Closer to home, Richmond, Virginia, is a spot worth considering for your United States travel plans. The RVA Street Art Festival recently announced its third iteration, set to take place in September 2015. True to the form, the festival will feature pieces painted on silos, buildings and even a water tank throughout the city's Manchester neighborhood. By partnering with the Manchester Civic Association, the festival leaves artists free to practice their art in its native environment without fear of being shut down.