#DubaiWalls is a ground-breaking initiative bringing street art to the Middle East. It invited 16 globally renowned street artists representing five continents to create their signature style art work in public spaces across CITY WALK in Dubai. They aims to engage both residents and visitors in a conversation about this exciting art form and introduce new mediums of street art for the public to explore and enjoy. I decided to take a stroll through city walk to capture some of these beautiful pieces of art and the stories behind their artists. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a map of City Walk and where each graffiti and more can be found.
Wigan born Eelus entered the world of street art a few years after moving to London in 2000. He was almost instantly snatched up by master printmakers Pictures On Walls after street legends Banksy and Eine noticed his work on the grimy walls of East London. His first ever screen print edition in 2006 sold out almost instantly (temporarily knocking raining champion Banksy off the top spot for the fastest selling print award) and pretty soon he was finally in a position where he could leave his day job behind and attempt to live his lifelong dream of turning his art into a full time profession. He has since exhibited worldwide alongside some of the scenes best contemporary urban masters including Shephard Fairey, Banksy, Eine, D-Face, Nick Walker, and Faile, as well having a number of successful sell-out solo shows both in the UK and USA. His work has become highly sought after over the last 10 years as collectors and celebrities alike help his releases sell out in minutes and his original work disappear as soon as the paint dries. He’s painted walls across the UK, USA, Japan, Norway, The Gambia and Dubai and most recently installed a permanent mural in the celebrity studded NYC restaurant VANDAL alongside a handful of other artists such as Hush, Shepard Fairey, Tristan Eaton and Vhils. Eelus is currently working towards his next solo exhibition with Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco which opens June 30th.
ROA was born in Ghent, Belgium, which is where he began his career painting abandoned warehouses and factories and became fixated on the creatures he found living in the wreckage. His distinct portrayal of animals on a massive scale has made him one of the most recognizable street artists. Painting murals in locations such as Colonge, Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Rome and Sydney… In 2011, Mammal Press released a limited edition book entitled “ROA – An Introduction to animal representation,” which chronicles his work through photographs, sketches and reference materials. That same year his work was included in “Art in the Streets”, the first major museum exhibition concerning the history of graffiti and street art, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Los Angeles, California. ROA specializes in the portrayal of animals, specifically those that have been forced to dwell in the outskirts of urban society. Concentrating on wildlife that is native to the area where he is painting, this nomadic artist creates location specific work in a restricted time frame and allows the immediate surroundings to inspire him. Predominately using a limited colour palette of black and white, ROA paints his creatures with vivid detail, often including anatomical features such as skeletal structure and internal organs and strived to create powerful sense of intimacy between the viewer and animals represented.
Nick Walker is one of the world’s best known street artists. His street work can be seen on walls around the globe and he has had sell-out gallery shows in all territories. He emerged from the infamous and ground-breaking Bristol graffiti scene of the early 1980s. As a forerunner of the British graffiti phenomenon, Nick’s work has become a blueprint for hundreds of emerging artists. Nick’s alter-ego and signature street artwork ‘The Vandal’, has appeared on walls all over the world and was featured in a video by The Black Eyed Peas. In 1999, legendary Director Stanley Kubrick commission Nick Walker to recreate the graffiti’d streets of New York for his 1999 film, Eyes Wide Shut. In 2008, Nick’s iconic Moona Lisa work sold for over ten times its estimated value at auction at Bonhams. It reached a hammer price of €60.000. Yes you read right! In 2013 leading lifestyle brand Royal Doulton commissioned Nick to create a bespoke range of ceramics, in 2014 this range was added to with a sculpture showing Nick pouring paint on the Houses of Parliament. Nick draws on the energy and imagery of graffiti but he succeeds in combining the freedom the spray can brings, with very controlled and intricate stenciling. The results are highly sophisticated and infinitely desirable. Nick’s book, The Art of Nick Walker, was officially launched in Summer 2015.
The Pioneer of urban art in Europe, Blek le Rat was the first to use stencils for creating public art on the street, using icons instead of writing his name. He was first exposed to graffiti in 1971 in New York, but didn’t start making his own until ten years later, in Paris. Inspired by a stencilled portrait of Mussolini, which he saw during a trip to Italy among WWII ruins, he created a silhouette of a rat running along the streets. He stencilled the rat for two years and quickly became recognized around Paris. This marked a monumental break from the dominance of New York’s graffiti style. His method of creating street art changed the face of urban art and still continues to greatly influence street artists around the world.
Beau Stanton A multi-disciplinary artist, Stanton’s work takes the form of paintings, murals, large scale installations, stained glass, and multimedia animations. Focusing on meticulous technique and craft, Stanton’s work is heavily informed by historic ornamentation, religious iconography, and classical painting. A keen interest in iconic visual symbols and Jungian archetypes often provides the foundation for his images. Stanton is originally from California where he studied Illustration at Laguna College of Art and Design. He relocated to New York after graduating in 2008 where he continues to live and work in Red Hook, Brooklyn constantly drawing inspiration from local nautical history. His work has recently been shown in a 12th Century crypt, on the Berlin Wall, a Fiat 500, and in galleries worldwide.
Icy and Sot, the famous stencil artists from Tabriz, joined the street art inspired movement #DubaiWalls. ICY (born 1985) and SOT (born 1991) are refugee stencil artists from Tabriz, Iran, currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. Since 2006, the two brothers have contributed to Iranian and international urban art culture through their striking stencil work that depict human rights, ecological justice, social and political issues. Their work appears on walls and galleries throughout Iran, USA, Germany, China, Norway, and globally. They transcend their histories of artistic and political censorship by using public art to envision a world freed from borders, war and gun violence.
AIKO was born and raised in Tokyo before moving to New York City in the mid-90’s. Already creating art since a young age, her art career in NYC began when she started working for Takashi Murakami. She apprenticed in Murakami’s studio in Brooklyn and worked for him until the late 90’s going on to direct a digital biography on the artist (“Superflat” 1998). AIKO continued to practice her own art and after leaving Murakami’s studio graduated from The New School University where she finished her MFA Media Studies and later met up with two American artists, the three of them would come to establish the group now known as FAILE. Creating work within the collective locally and abroad for a number of years, she moved on and established herself as Lady AIKO in 2006. AIKO continues to create work in the studio as well as public space. She is acclaimed in the contemporary art world and well-respected within the international graffiti and street art scene. She had a two-person show “Brick Ladies” with Lady Pink in Brooklyn in 2008, and she worked with Banksy on “Exit Through the Gift Shop” in 2010. Her large scale works indoors and outdoors are installed in many cities, including Miami’s Wynwood Walls in 2009, New York City’s Bowery Wall in 2013, and Coney Art Walls in 2015, all three curated by Jeffrey Deitch. AIKO has also been involved in a large collection of group shows, from “AnimamixBiennale” at Shanghai’s MoCA in 2009 to “Edo Pop” at Japan Society NYC in 2013, to her more recent solo show, “Sweet Heart” at The Outsiders Gallery in the UK in 2014.
Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto (1987) has been interacting visually with the urban environment under the name of Vhils since his days as a prolific graffiti writer in the early 2000s. His ground breaking carving technique – which forms the basis of the Scratching the Surface series and was first presented to the public at the VSP group show in Lisbon in 2007 and at the Cans Festival in London in 2008 –, has been hailed as one of the most compelling approaches to art created in the street in the last decade. This striking form of visual poetry, showcased around the world in both indoor and outdoor settings, has been described as brutal and complex, yet imbued with a simplicity that speaks to the core of human emotions, expressing the struggle between the aspirations of the individual and the demanding, saturated environment of the urban spaces he lives in, highlighting and exposing the sombre dimension that lies behind the current model of development and the material aspirations it encompasses – unsustainable, yet inebriating. Vhils grew up in Seixal, an industrialised suburb across the river from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and was particularly influenced by the transformations brought on by the intensive urban development the country underwent in the 1980s and 1990s. An avid experimentalist, he has been developing his notion of the aesthetics of vandalism in a plurality of media – from stencil painting to wall carving, from pyrotechnic explosions to 3D modelling – which have enabled him to expand the boundaries of visual expression. His unique approach and artwork have been garnering critical acclaim around the world.
Considered to be the mother of yarn bombing, Magda’s over 10 year body of work includes the widely recognized knitted/crocheted covered bus in Mexico City as well as her first solo exhibit in Rome at La Museo des Esposizione . Her work has evolved to include large scale installations around the world including commissions and collaborations with companies such as Commes Des Garcon, CR Fashionbook, Absolut Vodka, Insight 51, Mini Cooper, Gap, Smart Car and several other notable companies. She continues to stretch the boundaries of weaving to include video collaborations using stop motion film, installations using lighting, and her current project using metal fabricated wheels and mercerized cotton to create 3 dimensional Spyrographs. “My passion is with the material: I love displacing hand made, mostly knitted, material in environments where it seemingly doesn’t belong… only to discover that they can coexist quite harmoniously. I understand the limitations of this medium intimately, and I continue to challenge it. There is a transformation that occurs when I cover an inanimate object with soft hand made material. This interaction changes the object without taking away its identity or paralyzing its original function. It is this unplanned arrangement of the material that makes these objects come to life, become sculptural and even redefine or reinterpret a space. The exploration of environmental change drives me: provoking the world to be a more challenging, unconventional, and interesting place.” Recent projects include an installation for Dover Street Market in NYC covering a column spanning 6 floors and a knitted/crocheted Route Master Double Decker bus in London.