Jonathan Jones’ Attack on Street Art

I’ve just read Jonathan Jones’ piece on why he considered nominating Banksy for the Turner Prize. In it Jones brushes street art aside as a lesser art form and nothing but “something that scares old people on estates.” This is not the first time Jones has been critical of street art or Banksy in particular, but it is odd, as just a few months ago, he suggested that state-funded graffiti murals could help discover the next Jackson Pollock.

So maybe Jones only likes graffiti and not street art. Fine. I’ll accept that, even though it raises the much larger issue of what is graffiti and what is street art (a topic for another day, not that anybody really knows a good answer to that question). Back to Jones’ original point.

The paragraph I take the most issue with is this one:

Anyway, I believe in education. The reason I don’t like street art is that it’s not aesthetic, it’s social. To celebrate it is to celebrate ignorance, aggression, all the things our society excels at. For middle class people to find artistic excitement in something that scares old people on estates is a bit sick.

How is street art not aesthetic? How can Jones look at the work done by artists like Adam Neate or Swoon and say “those artists clearly had no intention of creating a beautiful image, or if they did, they have failed miserably?” Maybe Jones is just not exposed to enough street art. The media tends to focus on street artists doing stencils (all good and well, just not usually, save for C215, primarily about creating a pretty picture), and Jones is in the media so he sees the street art that the rest of the media shows him.

And again, this whole bit about street art scaring old people. Has he ventured to look outside of Banksy, Nick Walker, and D*Face? Jose Parla is certainly not intending to scare old people with his work.

There is hope for you yet Mr. Jones. I would urge you to have a look at a few of these street and urban artists who might be more to your liking:

1. Adam Neate

2. Matt Small

3. Jose Parla

4. Judith Supine

5. Keith Haring

6. Dan Witz

7. Swoon

8. Doze Green

9. Faile

10. JR

Any other suggestions for Mr. Jones? I just did this list off the top of my head, so I’m sure I’m missing plenty of people.

Thanks to Caroline W1 sending me Jones’ article