Behind the scenes at “Beyond the Streets London” is a hive of activity, with artists deeply focused on installing their work and seeking assistance with tools and equipment. Curators, organizers, and lighting professionals are bustling up and down the stairs, carrying props, or ladders, and communicating with vendors and artists via text message. Salespeople are diligently crafting wall texts to accompany the art pieces. It’s a few hours before showtime, yet everything is somehow accomplished just as the first guests arrive for the preview.
Photographer Martha Cooper is electrified by the activity at Saatchi Gallery. The event preserves the rich history of graffiti, street art, and commerce while pushing forward with new trends and directions. Cooper, who has documented this scene since the 1970s, has attended and exhibited in “Beyond the Streets” exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles – and we anticipate the next stop could be Shanghai. This particular iteration showcases an evolving mix of archetypes and invention, drawing on diverse influences from the US, UK, and EU.
Cooper observed many surprising music references at the show. Rock icon Eric Clapton was at the opening admiring a photograph of text declaring him to be God while filmmaker, musician, and BBC radio host Don Letts had a personal collection of his memorabilia/ephemera on display. Ron West, designer of the “Duck Rock” boombox, also made a sudden appearance at the opening, allowing guests to pose with his creation. Among the standout pieces was a Bob Gruen photo of Malcolm McLaren holding that boombox in front of Keith Haring’s Houston Street wall, a masterpiece of intersectionality, if you will.
Overall, “Beyond the Streets London” offers a smorgasbord of colors, flavors, and influences that are difficult to encapsulate in one show. However, Gastman, the visionary, gives it a good try, with a respectful nod to the many artists who have shaped this worldwide people’s art movement. Enjoy these behind-the-scenes shots from Ms. Cooper.
Beyond The Streets – London. Click HERE for more details, the schedule of events, tickets, and exhibition times.