The word ‘graffiti’ stems from the Italian word ‘grafffiato’ which when translated into English means ‘scratched’. Such etchings date back thousands of years, but what would be considered contemporary graffiti, without doubt stems from the hip hop culture that exploded into the mainstream conscience in the 20th century. The epicentre of this was New York, so it’s only fitting that the ‘Graffiti Hall of Fame’ is situated here, more specifically in Harlem. Community leader Ray “Sting Ray” Rodriguez wanted a place for local artists to express their creativity without fear of repercussions from the authorities, so in 1980 he set up the Hall of Fame, in the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex Schoolyard.
Today, the site hosts a world renowned & ever rotating collection of pieces from the finest street artists in the world. The graffiti world is notoriously competitive, so it’s only right that the Hall of Fame’s ethos & motto is ‘Strictly Kings or Better’, so you know when you visit you’ll only see the best of the best. Keep an eye on their Facebook page as they often host special parties throughout the year, with live music, local food & a celebration of the culture.
The debate that surrounds graffiti has existed as long as the artform itself; art or vandalism? Does it enhance or detract from its surroundings? Over time graffiti has evolved, from tags, to murals & social commentaries to pieces that include all of the above. As notable street artists are celebrated in high society whilst their less recognised contemporaries are treated as criminals, this debate has only intensified. Which makes places like this all the more important. The only thing that counts here is the calibre of your art, not the name you bare. There truly is nowhere better in the world to explore graffiti & its history than on the very streets it originated in.
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