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Brands and artists are transforming grey urban spaces into ‘painted cities’

By Lee Bofkin, CEO and co-founder

Global Street Art


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May 9, 2024 | 5 min read

Street art is alive and well, thanks partly to collaborations between artists and brands. Lee Bofkin of Global Street Art says this relationship is a win-win, and murals are the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

A London street scene overlooked by a mural

A mural in Southwark created by Global Street Art / Global Street Art

At Global Street Art, our mission is to live in painted cities. Since 2012, we’ve painted over 3,000 ‘pure’ art murals across the UK but our work also includes hand-painted advertising for brands, some at the 150 exclusive media sites we have across the UK; public art commissions; our unique Art for Estates program in housing estates; plus our Building Sights construction hoarding program; and the London Mural Festival. The 2024 edition will be one of the world’s biggest celebrations of street art, with over 100 murals planned across the city from some of the best UK and international street artists and muralists working today.

So where did it all begin? The truth is there is no one origin of street art – commentary on this subject often references Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera from the ‘20s-‘50s, the rise of graffiti in the ‘70s and ‘80s and political murals in Northern Ireland.

The original outdoor advertising

Street art is by its very nature public and born out of creativity and performance, often with elements of activism and protest. While British murals from the ‘70s and ‘80s weren’t always legal, there also wasn't the same framework for authorization, objection, or enforcement as exists today. Street art now encapsulates every style of art imaginable and is constantly evolving. Its rise has been profoundly impacted by technology: social media and smartphones have allowed fans of street art to document and share photos of art from all over the world, improving quality and accessibility. The shareability of craft inherently appeals to brands.

Together with the increasing popularity of street art and murals is the rise of hand-painted advertising, which has had a resurgence since the 21st century – it was the original form of outdoor advertising. Partnerships are, of course, another way that brands can and do show up all the time in popular culture – and the options are myriad.

Artist partnerships offer brands the chance to reach customers in a way they never could on their own. At the inaugural London Mural Festival, we creatively produced House of Zippo in Camden. The lighter brand wanted to show off its improved high-definition, high-colour decoration process by pairing its windproof lighters with brilliant artists. So we created an immersive pop-up event including live painting, interior murals, body painting, DJ sets, and a light show – as well as a huge exterior mural by celebrated artist D*Face. This mural, along with designs by four other artists from our network, were then licensed through us and turned into a series of limited-edition lighters that completely sold out in stores.

Brands and artists embrace collaboration

But the relationship between brands and street art can go further: supporting murals in public spaces is a way for brands to deliver real public good. As companies are the predominant institutions of our time, it’s imperative they work with culture because they, and only they, can fill the gap left by public bodies after austerity decimated their funding. Companies definitely recognize the importance of this: we work with a vast network of property owners, developers, and councils across London to ensure the murals painted in collaboration with specific boroughs – and as part of the London Mural Festival – can be enjoyed for years to come.

We recently worked with local artist Baiyu Liu and Southwark Council and two private investment firms – Maya Capital and Veld Capital – to create a permanent 300m² mural in Southwark that celebrated the area’s rich heritage. The design shows the seamless merging of day and night, alongside the area's rich tapestry of diversity and history. Commercial partners of the festival will be able to support permanent works of art that become a celebrated part of the local area, which is incredibly rare.

Given street art’s anti-establishment beginnings, there have always been artists who don’t associate with brands. However, more artists now recognize the unique opportunities that the right brand partnerships can bring, as well as meeting the heavy costs that go into creating work on this scale. There have been so many successful projects involving brands and artists working together in the past decade, that the conversation has moved more from “should we?” to “who with?” and “doing what?”

Creative Creative Works OOH

Content by The Drum Network member:

Global Street Art

Global Street Art’s mission is “to Live in Painted Cities”. This is realised by working with top street artists, creating incredible murals for commercial...

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