By Patrick James
The funny thing about street art is how rare it is to see a pedestrian stumble upon a Roa or a Swoon on an urban wall, and, having noticed it, proceed to stop, fold his arms across his chest, and settle in for a good, long viewing. All those ticks--the chin scratches and deep breaths, the things that indicate you're having an experience with an artwork--are mostly confined to museum and gallery settings. Maybe that's a good thing, but these days the city IS a gallery, an ever-changing aesthetic backdrop for the comings and goings of our lives.
That's part of the idea behind the Street Museum of Art, a collaborative exhibition of art on the fences, sidewalks, and alleyways of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The current exhibition is titled In Plain Sight, for which the anonymous organizers have identified, located, and mapped art by the following artists: C215, Elle, Faile, Gaia, Imminent Disaster, Jaye Moon, JR, Nick Walker, Paul Richard, R.Robot, and Sweet Toof.
How long will the current show last? The organizers coyly note that the duration is "entirely reliant on external forces and the reaction of the public" (so Sandy may have taken much of the signage, if not the art, down a little early). And when asked for the inspiration behind the exhibition, via email, SMoA cited Jeffrey Deitch's Art in the Streets show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles:
"The name of the show alone seemed ironic as the exhibition tried to contain the energy of an inherently public art medium within the confines of its galleries. Work by these artists can be found everyday through out the urban environment, and for free! However, few people would consider stoping to really look at street art as they would with any painting in a major museum. Instead of trying to modify or replicate the work within a gallery space, SMoA is re-examining the current model for 'public' art museums--essentially bringing the museum to the street."
One central idea of SMoA is that it's the first "public" art museum, meaning that not only can anyone in the city freely observe the art, but also, anyone can participate in creating it. Blank museum labels are freely available on the website, and people can submit photos of new works as they appear.
Of course there can't really be a permanent collection, as nothing is permanent--or, for that matter, owned, when it comes to street art. But that's the beauty of the project, which recognizes the ephemeral, evolving nature of the city, and celebrates beauty where you find it.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.