Street art is often seen as an expression of rebellion against the establishment. So why has street art become so popular at the upper end of the art market? Why did a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sell for over $110.5 million at Sotheby’s? Why is Banksy worth upwards of $50 million? This class will examine how street art has become high art, and how some of its practitioners have used their celebrity status to bring attention to social and political issues. Lectures will consider why the art world has embraced the work of street artists such as Basquiat, Banksy, and Keith Haring, and how artists like Mr. Brainwash and David Choe are challenging the traditional art market. Can street artists still control their messaging when their work is sold within the context of the traditional art market? And what happens to a counterculture movement when it becomes mainstream?
Students will learn:
- To identify important street artists, the visual characteristics of their work, and the social and political causes that they champion.
- To understand how and why street art has been transformed into high art through the art world’s embrace of this work as a valuable commodity.
- To assess the implications of this transformation both for the art market and for street artists themselves.