London is famous for its art galleries which are mostly free to explore. However, the streets are just as colourful and are (generally) much less touristy. East London is known for having some of the best street art around so we’ve been out in the cold exploring the best street art in Hackney. Each piece has its own unique story to go with it, so get on your feet and check them out!
Bright Birds on Clare Street
Clare Street is home to a whole host of colourful street art, including this mural by BirdO and Louis Masai. The aptly named Canadian artist completes his works wearing a rather disconcerting bird head mask. His fellow artist Louis Masai tends to focus on endangered animals and aims to raise awareness for their conservation. These dazzling, dancing birds are painted on a row of vacant bungalows and the piece has been nicknamed ‘Joey Gunner’ by a resident who lives opposite. We’re not sure why.
ROA’s Giant Rabbit
This 3.5m rabbit by Belgian street artist ROA sits innocently on the side of a recording studio on the Hackney Road. Similarly to Banksy, ROA is secretive about his identity. He usually works in grey-scale and focuses on animals which often interact with the city spaces that surround them. Back in 2010, Hackney Council served a removal notice for the mural, despite the fact that the owner of the building had given ROA permission for the mural. As you can see, the painting has survived the ordeal. However, like so many murals around London, the rabbit has been tagged and it’s a wonder as to how much longer it will be there.
A Banksy Survivor
Another work of art that has suffered at the hands of the well-meaning Hackney Council is Banksy’s Portrait of the Royal Family. Locals protested it’s removal in 2009 and the mural was saved just in the nick of time. It has just about survived and the focal part of the image is still visible. Many of Banksy’s stencils haven’t been so lucky and a lot of them have been lost forever. This is one of only a few left in London.
Unit 5 Gallery Mural
Artist Axel Void was selected by Banksy to take part in his ‘Dismaland Bemusement Park‘ in Weston-super-Mare back in 2015. Since then, Void has had his etchings featured at the opening of Unit 5. The Hackney gallery displayed a large-scale exhibition of his work in 2017. The gallery displays contemporary and urban art and exhibits local and international talent. As well as his etchings, Axel Void painted this mural on Scawfell street to mark the opening of the gallery. As you can see from this detailed mural, his work is heavily influenced by his interest in fine art.
Part of a Street Art Tour
South American artist Alex Senna has also had his work exhibited at Hackney’s Unit 5 Gallery. This mural of a family unit is located on Ion Square, right opposite the gallery. His works are usually black and white silhouettes and tend to represent the minorities of the areas his murals are located in. The lanky characters focus on love and relationships, such as this family in Hackney. The Unit 5 gallery is run by Alternative London, who also organise street art tours and graffiti workshops if you fancy trying your hand at street art.
A Spot for Lunch
Although not really street art in its own right, this site is just around the corner from Unit 5 and home to Just Fab. Before settling down in Hackney, this Italian, vegan bus toured the festival scene and continues to be a unique dining experience in its new home on Hackney Road. Where possible, their ingredients are organic and sourced locally. It’s a great spot for lunch on a day of street art hunting and only a short walk from Clare Street, home to some of the best street art in Hackney.
Homerton Hospital’s Sleeping Baby
Another artist whose characters are famously monotone is Stik. Hailing from Hackney, artist Stik spent several years in homeless shelters and often collaborates with hospitals, charities and homeless organisations. This sweet character can be found sleeping in the courtyard of Homerton Hospital. Stik painted this mural at the hospital in 2015 and also sold 100 prints to raise money for the RNRU department. Homerton Hospital has an innovative programme which offers long-stay patients the chance to explore interactive art workshops as part of their recovery. Stik’s fundraising has helped to ensure that this good work continues.
Something a Little Different
Not a mural, but an installation, we think this qualifies as street art! The gate at Breaker’s Yard has been decorated with little toy cars that have been donated by celebrities, artists and locals. The site at Sutton House used to be a car breakers yard but has been repurposed. The yard is home to upcycled vehicles, including a bus-turned-greenhouse. Although a site in itself, if you’re visiting the Yard, it’s worth wondering around the history-rich Sutton House. The Tudor house became occupied by squatters in the 1980s. Rock concerts were held in the barn. and squatters’ artwork is on display in the National Trust-owned house.
Comic Book Colour Pop
This comic-book inspired mural is located just off the Hackney Road on Hassard Street. This spectacular splash of colour was created by a group of artists who go by the title The Rolling People, lifted from a song by the Verve. Speaking of lifting, the group use characters from comics in their works to create scenes that make you feel as if you have dropped into the world of Doctor Strange.
“Painting completed my life.” Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is an inspiration to many for pushing boundaries and overcoming tragedies. A date for the diary is the V&A’s exhibition about Frida’s life, including a collection of her personal artefacts and clothing alongside her artwork. The exhibition opens in June, though tickets are available from the 8th of March if you like to plan ahead. This portrait of her is by street artist Zabou and brightens up Ada Street, just off Broadway Market. Frida’s wall neighbour is a little sheep by London artist Stewy, part of his series of stencils representing the A-to-Z of British animals.
London Fields Archway Art
Also by Zabou, this mural is just opposite KOMPAS HQ in London Fields. It’s nice to be blown kisses every morning on the way in to work (I’m ignoring the archway next to him, which features the real recipient of his air kisses). In the other arches along the road, there are some great food outlets which are definitely worth a visit. These include E5 Bakehouse, Finch Café, and Rosa’s Thai Cafe – three of our team’s favourites.
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