Beginner's Guide On How (Not) To Collect Street Art

  • by Francesca Testa

Street art, in general, is already a very tricky subject—it's almost impossible to define and too early to judge. While its history traces way back and its beginnings can be credited to your typical graffiti, street art as a movement is yet to be backed by art historians. With a movement so open and so vague as such, is there any way you can collect them? Yes and no; here's why.

Cartellino Collecting Street Art Alex Face
Alex Face, Photo courtesy of The View Deck at Flickr

There are a lot of fakes out there

Street art is, well, found in the streets. They're usually on walls, posts, abandoned cars and buildings, spaces undiscovered, and mostly come without a certain signature, but with repetition. This comes with the definition of street art—a certain style or signature is latched onto the works that will help you identify which artist did what. Many of the artists also document their works on social media making it easy for people to identify if the work presented is authentic or not. While identities of street artists are usually concealed, they also work with galleries like traditional contemporary artists to provide authentication to buyers of their works—whether it's a print or a whole wall but what doesn't come without authentication is always a huge risk to take so buy with caution.

“You can buy the establishment where the street art was placed and keep it there for what it's meant to be in the first place: public consumption.”

Reserve a proper space for street art in your collection

Street art collectors usually take drastic measures when it comes to making sure this is followed—they tear down walls in their homes, keep their garage open and so on. If you don't have enough space to put street art in your house or private space, better resort to prints, multiples or other works by the street artist you support. But buying street art doesn't always mean you're about to buy a wall as this can be problematic. You can buy the establishment where the street art was placed and keep it there for what it's meant to be in the first place: public consumption.

Cartellino Collecting Street Art Jung Lee
Jung Lee, Photo courtesy of Widewalls

Don't buy things you're not meant to buy

The reason street artists place their works on public and open spaces is that they want people to see it. If an artist is against a work being taken from its original canvas, better leave it alone as doing so would defeat the purpose of the work. The essence of street art relies on how people see it. What makes it so special is that it's something we all unknowingly consume every day and it gets to us, allowing us to hear what they're saying through the canvases they made out of the streets. If you are looking forward to owning a piece by a street artist, there are a lot of them who have been collaborating with galleries and brands or releasing their own merchandise. You may not be buying a street art per se but you're still supporting them without having to take away the essence of their works.

Where to find street artists to support

Social media, without a doubt, is the best platform to find street artists. They're all over the places waiting to seen and heard. With art galleries all around Manila and the rest of Asia working with street artists as well, you might be able to find them on the next subscription email they send you. There are many ways to find them but to collect their work is a whole new task to do. In the end, as a collector, you still have to ask yourself: what is it that you really want to collect and what is the reason behind it? You still get to choose if you're ready to tear down a wall at home or acquire a new property with a tiny Garapata sticker on it. You can keep your foyer open for a post that says "Stop Making Babies" or randomly place an embellished van in your garage. Or you can just buy a tote, a work on canvas, a print, or a sticker. The decision is yours to make. Are you ready to collect street art?

 
Lady Aiko | Anchor photo courtesy of Grafitti Street