The evolution of Philadelphia’s Northeast Rail Corridor

February 11th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
psychylustro by Katharina Grosse. Photo by Steve Weinik.

psychylustro by Katharina Grosse. Photo by Steve Weinik.

In the spring of 2014, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program installed psychylustro, a multi-site artwork by Katharina Grosse, across sections of the Northeast Rail Corridor in Philadelphia. Grosse treated walls, warehouses, and even trees as her canvas. psychylustro‘s bold colors and brush strokes certainly changed the scenery for Amtrak commuters, and Hyperallergic described the work as “a mysterious, puzzling, and surprising presence.” But psychylustro was also an intervention at a site usually controlled by graffiti writers.

There was graffiti along the rail corridor before Mural Arts and Grosse got to work, and it’s no secret that psychylustro was tagged and bombed. For six months, Mural Arts regularly revisited the walls to apply fresh coats of neon paint. And then… they stopped, leaving psychylustro to the elements, the writers, and the buff.

The installation of Katharina Grosse's psychylustro. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The installation of Katharina Grosse’s psychylustro. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Although psychylustro did cover notable graffiti (including works by Retna, Nekst, Skrew, Curve, and Ntel), it also presented an opportunity: Before installation began, Mural Arts invited Martha Cooper to document the graffiti at the sites where psychylustro was going to be. And recently, a little over a year after Mural Arts stopped maintaining psychylustro, they sent photographer Steve Weinik to revisit the installation. The result is a likely unparalleled documentation of graffiti along the Philadelphia section of the Northeast Rail Corridor in 2014 and 2015.

One nice perk of working at Mural Arts is that I have access to those photos. Since I’m about to leave Mural Arts for New York City, it seems like the perfect time to show the evolution of the psychylustro walls, from the graffiti captured by Martha through to how they look today. The photo captions are incomplete, but hopefully useful nonetheless (thanks to NTEL and Air Rat for help with captions). Enjoy!

Sever, Skrew, Cense, Retna, and more. April 2014. Photo by Martha Cooper.

Sever, Skrew, Cense, Retna, and more. April 2014. Photo by Martha Cooper.

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Another London “art dealer” chops up a mural

January 27th, 2016 | By | No Comments »

Photo courtesy of Stik.

London-based street artist Stik is internationally known for painting cute stick figures that just generally make people smile. It’s a harmless bit of good that he does. Sometimes he even collaborates with kids in the towns where he paints. He’s the most heartwarming kind of muralist. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that Stik used his art career to lift himself out of homelessness. Who would ever do something to mess with Stik?


Andrew Lamberty. Photo from

Meet Andrew Lamberty, founder of Lamberty Antiques. His Twitter profile says that he sells “James Bond furniture for the discerning villain.” He has decided to mess with Stik.

The Institute of Art and Law Blog has a good explanation of the story up to this point. It goes something like this:

  • Back in 2011, Stik painted two murals on shipping containers in Gdańsk, Poland.
  • The murals were commissioned by the Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdańsk, and were a painted in collaboration with 10 local young people.
  • In late 2014, the containers disappeared. Later, it was discovered the owner had sold them for only $4,000. That’s approximately market rate for two standard shipping containers without murals on them, suggesting that nobody in Gdańsk was aware of what was about to happen.
  • In October 2015, 10 pieces of the containers reappeared (representing 16 out of the 53 figures originally in the murals), chopped up and on display at Lamberty’s gallery in London. The asking price was £10,000-12,000 per section.
  • Initially, Lamberty’s website include the claim that “All of Stik’s street works that come into Lamberty are fully approved by the artist.” This was not true, and is still not true.
  • In late October, Lamberty posted a statement on their website about the situation. As hard as they might try, it does not make Lamberty look good. Some choice quotes from that statement:
    • “Lamberty legally purchased these works with full documentation. We removed them from a harsh outdoor climate, where they were deteriorating, and prepared them for indoor instalment.”
    • “Lamberty has requested that Stik recognise and endorse the removal of these pieces – in exchange we have offered to return the works over decorated by local children for the enjoyment or benefit of the local school community.” You read that right: Lamberty is holding some of the Gdańsk segments hostage, and his price is that Stik authenticates other Gdańsk segments for Lamberty to then sell.
  • Today, in January, Stik is still fighting to get the works back from Lamberty and stop the sale of the mutilated and unauthenticated mural.

So here’s how the situation appears to me: A scumbag went to Poland, bought a community mural from a private owner, mutilated that mural by chopping it into little pieces, tried to sell those little pieces for a profit, got caught being a scumbag, and finally decided to make everything better (read: save his detestable investment) by trying to pressure a kindhearted artist into sullying his reputation and authenticating inauthentic artworks.

The current state of the shipping containers. Photo courtesy of Stik.

The current state of the shipping containers. Photo courtesy of Stik.

But what makes these Lamberty pieces inauthentic? Assuming these pieces are the shipping container that Stik painting, they were once Stik murals. And now they are not. How? By chopping them up, Lamberty has irrevocably changed the meaning of the artwork. What was once a message of solidarity (50-odd people holding hands) is broken apart into lonely, separated people. Only a fool would call that the same artwork. What is Guernica if you only see the oil lamp? What is The Great Gatsby if you only read page 103? Therefore, these works are not authentic Stik paintings (at least not anymore than someone trying to sell you page 103 of The Great Gatsby is selling you a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald). This is moral rights 101.

Lamberty’s defense, that he paid for the shipping containers before cutting them up, is like saying that it’s okay to own a stolen car, as long as you paid someone to steal it for you. Oh, and then you cut that stolen car into 53 pieces and tried to sell each of piece separately as one fully-functional new car. And then you tell the car’s original owner than you’ll return half pieces, but only if they will tell the police that nothing was stolen in the first place.

It’s time for Lamberty to do the right thing. He should immediately return every piece of the Gdańsk shipping containers to Stik or to the people of Gdańsk. He should also pay for Stik to paint a new mural in Gdańsk. If Lamberty won’t do that, he and his gallery need to shut up and stop pretending to have the moral high ground here.

As for the rest of us, we just need to keep one thing in mind: Buying unauthenticated street pieces is not okay, and the people who sell street pieces tend to be shady, even by art dealer standards. Why deal with with shady people? Support your favorite artists by buying direct from them or the galleries that represent them. It’s really that simple.

Photos courtesy of Stik and from

Category: Art News, Featured Posts, Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: ,

Calligraffiti meets stencils in rural Mexico

January 23rd, 2016 | By | No Comments »


Not much to say here other than I am really enjoying the way Said Dokins and MonkeyBird have combined calligraffiti and stencils on this mural in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Be sure to click here to see the fine stenciling in more detail.

Photos by Leo Luna

Category: Photos | Tags: ,

Reviving an old favorite with “Dump Trump”

January 22nd, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Photo by Herman Yung.

Photo by Herman Yung.

It should come as no surprise that anti-Trump street art and graffiti has begun to spring up. Hanksy got in on the game early with this mural from last summer. Now, the writers are chiming in with a huge DUMP TRUMP piece right next to Trump Place in Manhattan.

According to Gawker, the piece was painted by members of the TFS crew. What a lot of people seem to have missed so far is that this piece references the iconic DUMP KOCH train painted in 1982 by SPIN TFS in respond to New York Mayor Ed Koch’s war on graffiti. Here’s that train:


Photo by Martha Cooper.

If you look closely next to the D in DUMP TRUMP, there’s a little message:

Photo by Herman Yung.

(cropped) Photo by Herman Yung.

So, whether or not the piece was painted by members of TFS, at least they gave it the green light.

What a beautiful way to update a classic! Who’s feeling inspired?

Photos by Herman Yung/ and Martha Cooper

Category: Art Fairs, Photos | Tags: ,

NDA’s “Minor Anniversary” at LMNL Gallery

January 21st, 2016 | By | No Comments »
NDA wheatpaste in Philadelphia

NDA wheatpaste in Philadelphia

Around this time last year, Philadelphia got great news with NDA moved to town. He very quickly became one of the most noticeable street artists on Philly’s walls. Now, we’re celebrating NDA’s first year in the city with a show at LMNL Gallery. Minor Anniversary opens February 5th. The show is NDA’s diary of the friendly faces, characters, and environments he has come across since coming to Philadelphia.

It’s particularly exciting for me to be working on this show. I’ve worked with NDA before through The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and been a fan of his work for years. However, until recently I was mostly observing from afar through Instagram or blogs. When NDA moved to Philly, I was finally able to catch his work in person. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I think the energy of Philly’s street art community shifted when NDA arrived. Over the last year, I’ve seen more wheatpastes than ever, often by NDA or people he gets up with.

And if you really can’t wait for Minor Anniversary to see new work from NDA, he’s also a part of the upcoming #StreetsDeptTurns5 show at Paradigm Gallery + Studio, one of my favorite Philly galleries. #StreetsDeptTurns5 is curated by Conrad Benner of the blog StreetsDept, a stellar blog of Philadelphia street art, and also features Joe Boruchow, NoseGo, and others.

Minor Anniversary opens February 5th at LMNL Gallery in Philadelphia.


Photo by RJ Rushmore

Category: Gallery/Museum Shows, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , ,

Nano 4814 mural censored in Besançon, France

January 18th, 2016 | By | No Comments »

Nano 4814. Photo by Quentin Coussirat.

Last June, during the 5th edition of Bien Urbain (a Public Art Festival in Besançon, France) the Spanish artist NANO 4814 was invited to participate and paint the mural above. To the great surprise of the organization and the artist, the mural was erased in early December, after a decision by the owner of the building. It’s really discouraging… This festival is organized by a non-profit association that just wants to give artists space to express their art in total freedom. Murals cannot be just decorative, as noted by this press release issued by Bien Urbain (here translated into English for convenience):

On December 3rd, we were shocked to see that Néolia proceeded to erase the mural by Spanish artist NANO 4814, painted in June 2015 at 13 Bouloie Street, as part of the Bien Urbain Festival.

At the beginning of last summer, the landlord organization informed us of their desire to remove the mural, after it an unfortunate interpretation of the piece. We immediately proposed a meeting and went there to talk with residents of the neighborhood. We have obviously not met everyone, but no one we came into contact with on site mentioned any wish to cover up the mural. On the contrary, most liked to see the building embellished by art, as is the case of several buildings in the area. Some people we met had questions about the presence of a knife or a dark veil, which could represent a niqab, others saw a ghost, or a Marsupilami wanting to use a knife to cut the thread that surrounds his friends. NANO 4814 saw a scene symbolizing the difficulty of the artistic act and questions about the relationship between his work and the history of art more broadly. Art is always open to interpretation. In September, Néolia, the building’s owner, asked us to clear the wall. However, our role is to allow artists to intervene in the public space, not erase their work without prior discussion. We had heard no news from the company after that, and only found out on December 3rd that the painting was about to be covered, so neither the artist nor our association were notified beforehand.

We regret this unilateral act of artistic censorship and defend the view that exchange and dialogue are always more fruitful than “sweeping things under the rug.” If this artwork had actually caused arguments (which we have not seen), it would have been more interesting to take the opportunity to discuss, exchange, and confront points of view, rather than give in to fear. “Preventive censorship” has never been positive for “living together.”


Nano 4814 mural’s erased. Photo by Chloé Cura.

Photos by Quentin Coussirat and Chloé Cura

Category: Festivals | Tags: ,

Wallpaper for your neighborhood

January 6th, 2016 | By | No Comments »

A mural in DC by Jason Woodside

It’s no secret that the muralism model pioneered by Tony Goldman’s Goldman Properties is being imitated across the country. It seems that every city has a property developer eager to give artists paint and walls (and sometimes an additional fee) in exchange for murals that are easy on the eyes and attractive to the crowd that will pay $10 for a latte. In Washington, DC and the surrounding cities, that developer is property behemoth JBG. They finance the JBG Mural Project.

JBG has commissioned about 30 murals for their properties, including some by internationally-recognized names like Jason Woodside and Reka. Of course, I like to see talented artists get paid, and I like to see new public art. Still… public art projects led by developers and marketing agencies rather than non-profits, governments, or professional curators give me pause. Public space belongs to all of us, not just one property owner intent in installing billboards for their neighborhoods.

The JBG Mural Project was brought to my attention thanks to this article in The Washington Post. It’s definitely worth a read, as one of the most balanced and well informed articled I’ve read from the mainstream media about property developers embracing muralism. One quote in particular sums up my views on the JBG Mural Project and many initiatives like it:

“When you put something large-scale in the public domain, I think the most exciting potential is the discourse associated with that work . . . as opposed to being just another Urban Outfitters billboard,” said Elizaveta Meksin, an artist and associate professor of visual art at Columbia University in New York. “There are so many interesting artists who work in the public domain and do installations that have a message and have some sort of a critical approach or message. And, obviously, we are not seeing this company support that kind of work.”

Photo from Jason Woodside

Category: Festivals | Tags: ,

A closer look at the Amazon Street Art Project

December 11th, 2015 | By | No Comments »


This week, Amazon launched the Amazon Street Art Project, which features new limited edition artwork from stikman, Faith47, AIKO, Gaia, Logan Hicks, Ganzeer, and Ron English. Each piece in the project is only an edition of 50, so be sure to have a look before they’re all sold out. Since I curated the series, I thought it would be good spend some time looking at what makes each piece in the collection special.

stikman’s print based on a series from 2008 that he’s revamped to turn into his very first screenprint. What I love about Overture is the illusion of 3 layers that stikman created out of the two black and green layers, simply by printing black layer (both the musical score and the stikman figure’s shadow) on top of the green layer.


Faith47 really came up with something irresistible by printing silver ink on black paper for her etching, The Psychic Power of Animals. There’s also a must-see video of the etching being produced.


With AIKO’s Bunny, we started with a straightforward concept: A print of Aiko’s classic Bunny icon. Then, AIKO decided to go overboard in the best way possible, adding layers and layers of hand-painted customization to every print.

Gaia’s screenprint makes great use of half-tones, something I’ve often seen go poorly with other artists. Usually, you see artists using half-tones to skimp on adding what should be another layer of color to their print, but Gaia uses them masterfully for Amani, adding essential detail and depth to his work.

Logan Hicks’ Wasted Lives is the main reason I keep having to avoid calling this a print series. Wasted Lives is not a print. It’s a completely hand-painted edition. Using his pioneering stencil techniques, Hicks created an edition of 50 original works on paper.

You really have to get in close to appreciate the full beauty of Ganzeer’s After the Starstuff. Yes, the image itself, of the Earth from space and then close-ups on a pile of man-made trash, is powerful, but Ganzeer took this to another level by making this a letterpress print and using handmade hemp paper.

And finally, Ron English’s Monarch Elephant, because if I was going to be working with one of the world’s largest retailers to bring art to a huge new audience, I also needed someone to slip in a cheeky celebration of “the art of evolution.”

Photos courtesy of

Category: Print Release, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posterboy’s bold tribute to a murdered Peruvian activist

December 3rd, 2015 | By | No Comments »


In December 2014, Posterboy attempted one of their most bold installations yet. He was in Lima, Peru. It was election season. And just a few months before, a prominent environmental activist had been brutally murdered. Edwin Chota was killed by illegal loggers, who operate with impunity in the Amazon rainforests of Peru. Chota had been on a campaign to kick out the illegal loggers and reclaim the lands for the indigenous people of the area. After being repeatedly threatened by loggers and having those threats ignored by the authorities, Chota and three other men were killed for their activism. When Posterboy was in Peru, he heard Chota’s story, and decided to respond in the best way he knows how: A billboard.

The whole story, including a very angry local politician, is captured in this exclusive video, which Posterboy is only now releasing for the first time:

Video and video still courtesy of Posterboy

Category: Videos | Tags:

600 climate change ad takeovers blanket Paris

November 29th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
Paul Insect

Paul Insect

This past Friday in Paris, over 600 posters by more than 80 artists and designers were installed in bus shelters managed by JCDecaux. The posters were installed on the occasion of the COP21 conference on climate change, which starts today. Participants in the campaign include Barnbrook, Bill Posters, Fra.Biancoshock, Jon Burgerman, Listen04, Paul Insect, Revolt Design, Stanley Donwood, Unga, and many more.

Seeing as JCDecaux is an official sponsor of the COP21 conference, it makes sense that they would open up their bus shelters to messages about climate change. Of course, that’s not what happened. This was an unauthorized action, a mass ad-takeover organized by Brandalism, who say that the posters “highlight the links between advertising, consumerism, fossil fuel dependency and climate change.”

Here’s a video of the action:

And of course, more posters:





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