Take a short stroll around the bustling streets of Shoreditch and it won’t be too long before you notice that the neighbourhood acts as a giant colourful canvas for urban artists from across the world.
Sitting right at the heart of Shoreditch on Great Eastern Street, The Stage, is a new destination that is set to include a public realm, a heritage centre and an impressive 37-storey building containing 412 private residential apartments once fully complete. Working in collaboration with Global Street Art Agency, one of the world’s leading art platforms, The Stage is also home to the Great Eastern Art Wall (GEAW) — a site that directly supports murals for charities and allows occasional commercial murals and hand-painted adverts.
We caught up with Dr Lee Bofkin, Co-founder and CEO of Global Street Art, to learn more about the agency, GEAW, Shoreditch and chat all things street art…
How did Global Street Art come about?
Quite by accident! I started taking photographs of graffiti after I injured my knee bboying (breakdancing) and had to stop dancing overnight. The photography collection grew a lot after I met our co-founder Koenraad, who had the idea to start a company. Little did we know it would grow into what we are today!
What is the mission of Global Street Art?
Our mission is very simple: “To Live in Painted Cities”
What kinds of projects does Global Street Art help to deliver?
We deliver community projects and commercial projects, which fit into different categories. The community projects include painting in housing estates (Art for Estates), painting on construction hoardings (Building Sights) and festivals, like our London Mural Festival Last Year. Our commercial work includes hand-painted advertising, murals for landlords and developers, interiors and content-related projects.
What do street art/murals bring to a community?
Colour and vibrancy – an excuse to slow down. I think good public art, at the very least, slows people down and encourages conversations. It also normalises the idea of art, the idea that we simply should have more art around us.
Who have you worked with in the past?
How have you seen street art/murals evolve since the agency started out in 2012?
There’s a lot more art spread in more neighbourhoods of London (and around the world). There are more people painting murals, and wanting to paint murals, today than ever before. There is also more demand from cities, neighbourhoods, and residents I’d say.
Where do you see the future of street art/mural painting heading?
Our cities are definitely going to be painted more in future!
What’s your advice to up-and-coming London-based artists?
Work hard and learn your craft – mentorship and practical experience is worth a lot! If you’re going to paint murals in particular, it usually helps if you enjoy painting as part of a team.
How do you use social media and digital platforms/channels to help you grow?
We are very active on Instagram and have three accounts:
@globalstreetart – the best we see from around the world and what we want to share
@londonmuralfest – art murals we’ve organised
@globalstreetart.agency – our commercial side
How can hand-painted adverts benefit companies and local businesses?
HPA (hand-painted advertising) is as close to art as advertising can be – it takes a lot of skill and effort to paint, so it’s impressive and human-powered. Brands like that. People don’t take photos of billboards, but they do of HPA, especially while we’re painting. Because it looks good and stands out, plus makes content for social media, it’s higher impact than other forms of advertising. “Cut through” is the term they use in the industry.
How many murals has Global Street Art produced since its beginning?
I know we’ve organised around 3000 pure art murals. I haven’t counted commercial projects but nowhere near as many as the community murals, funnily enough!
What has been your favourite mural to work on? Are there any in particular that stand out in your memory and why?
We paint hundreds of murals every year so it’s hard to pick just one or remember all of them at the same time! The recent football pitch mural we painted for Nike Football before the Euro finals was a brilliant project. It was confirmed on Thursday at 10pm and completed within 48 hours – it was around 50m wide and filmed by drone. England didn’t win the finals, sadly, but the project was a lot of fun and made the match even more special for us.
Your offices are based in Shoreditch, just a stone’s throw from The Stage. What are some of your favourite local spots?
For music – Vibe Bar.
For drinks – Lounge Bohemia.
For food – Bistrot Walluc.
And many more places besides!
How has street art changed Shoreditch?
Well, first, I think we should acknowledge that street art and murals have changed Shoreditch! The area definitely became known for street art but, at the same time, there were a lot of other factors changing the landscape. The clubs and bars, and now the increase in a diverse array of restaurants, made Shoreditch a popular destination, which led to an increase in hotels.
The Stage has, importantly, helped to preserve the Great Eastern Art Wall for the future, which hosts hand-painted advertising, which funds murals for charities, plus pure-art murals in between the commercial murals.
The Stage is a brand-new mixed-use development in Shoreditch headed by Cain International in joint venture with McCourt, Vanke, Galliard Homes Ltd, The Estate Office Shoreditch, and constructed by C J O'Shea. With over 400,000 square feet of luxury private residential units, a public realm, commercial space and a heritage centre, this exciting new East London development will be the ultimate destination to live, work and play. For more details, call 020 3770 2154 to speak with a member of our team.