Somerset House exhibition celebrates the transformative power of graffiti

Through streets artists from the likes of Shepard Fairey to Filippo Minelli, this amazing new exhibition explores the link between utopia and graffiti.

Imagine utopia - impossibly tall buildings and whizzing tech might come to mind. Others might envision an ecological paradise with never-ending stretches of green. Or perhaps your ideal is a totally equal society.

All these interpretations can probably at least agree there’ll be no graffiti in their brave new world. As an art form - there’s neither time nor willpower to have that debate here - that can be legally punished and is often denounced as the territory of vandals, graffiti doesn’t lend itself to most people’s idea of bliss.

Somerset House’s new exhibition Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday has a different idea, exploring graffiti as a “intrinsically utopian practice” through a showcase of 17 street artists from those famous (or infamous) to the scene – Shepard Fairey, Swoon and REVOK – to critically-acclaimed artists such as Eltono and Filippo Minelli.

Venturing Beyond: Grafitti and the Everyday is running from 3 March - 2 May at Somerset House, Terrace Rooms. 

‘Venture beyond’, from the exhibition’s title, references graffiti’s knack for breaking boundaries – whether legal, architectural or aesthetic – in a service, rather than nuisance, to the public.

Challenging the well-worn rules of society is a rebellious thread shared with Thomas More’s Utopia, the 500th anniversary of which the exhibition is celebrating as part of Somerset House’s UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility.

Image: Utopian Security Co. by Petro in an exploration of how costumes of authority, such as high-vis jackets, can make you allegedly safe. 

No, Somerset House was not fleetingly a war zone. We were treated to a smoky show at the exhibition’s press preview – check out more of Filippo Minelli’s work with smoke.

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Fom 13-20 April, Horfée and Russell Maurice will take up residency in Somerset House, where visitors can watch them creating a new body of work based on the ‘utopia’ theme.

Image: The Only Emergency is the Absence of Emergency by Filippo Minelli, who asks where the room for asking questions and doubt is in our tight-knit social systems. 

Of course, art within the safety of a gallery – which is then no longer graffiti - by celebrated street artists can seem far removed from the reality of jailed grafitti artists.

Image: Nolens-Volence by Saeio. Councils remove grafitti by painting over it - creating an artwork in itself. 

Image: Brad Downey's work forms his name 

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