The last time I went to Shoreditch, I only peeped into Rivington Street. I caught sight of works by two of the greatest street artists Britain has produced, got excited, started clicking… and ran out of batteries. Plus, it was biting cold and it was a day when I’d been foolishly optimistic about the weather while dressing up. I had to beat a sorry retreat, albeit with a strong resolve to go back as soon as possible – with an extra set of batteries.I was rewarded with that opportunity yesterday.Do correct me if I’m wrong, but Rivington Street seems to me to be the mecca of street art in London. The first thing you notice when you enter the street from the Shoreditch side is Eine’s famous (or infamous, depending upon how you’re inclined to view street art) typography. It transforms the underside of this bridge from a dingy stinky passageway into an art gallery in its own right.

click on pictures to enlarge
Rivington Street
On the opposite wall sits one of the entrances to Cargo, the live music bar, flanked on either side by graffiti – by someone whose name I haven’t been able to trace yet. (Leads appreciated).
Rivington Street

Rivington Street

Shoreditch Etc11
If this looks familiar, you probably saw it here

*Update: The two silhouette pieces above are by an artist called Sam3. Hat tip: Xylo

Cargo’s courtyard/garden on the other side of this bridge is a haven for street art – it houses two famous Banksy works on each end, with multiple Shepard Faireys, an Ego Leonard and other street art in between:

Rivington Street
Banksy’s ‘Designated Graffiti Area’ – this one is so precious, it is covered with a pyrex sheet.

Rivington Street

Rivington Street
Shepard Fairey’s ‘Obey’ posters

Rivington Street
Unidentified – help appreciated

Rivington Street
Ego Leonard’s Lego

Rivington Street
Banksy’s HMV

I moved out of the rear exit of Cargo and into the courtyard (narrow alleyway) of the Black Rat Press and come across more street art – outside the gallery. And here comes the interesting part, if you haven’t figured out from the name already, the Black Rat Press is dedicated to showcasing the best of street art and artists from around the world. It houses works by D’Face, Swoon, Brian Adam Douglas, Slinkachu and Nick Georgiou among others. The name of the gallery is of course taken from Banksy’s signature black rat that has made appearances in several cities of the world.

Rivington Street
Unidentified, outside Black Rat Press. Any help?

Rivington Street
Someone left their paints behind

Rivington Street
Love the typography

Rivington Street

Like Shoreditch, but less so, Rivington Street is a study in contrast – or perhaps it is a study in tolerance of extremes. The street is littered with art galleries showcasing formal, recognised forms of art, while the walls outside these galleries host works by some of the most well-known street artists. The David Adjaye designed Rivington Place, for example, has an exhibition on by well known South African photographer Santu Mofokeng. Right behind the gallery, enclosed in its own parking space, is a famous Stylo and Mear piece from 2001.

Rivington Street

Rivington Street

Rivington Street is obviously a place for artists, photographers and designers. Old world sentimentalities about art and design perhaps do not fit in here. Every establishment on this street – cafe, gallery, bar, shop – pays homage to eclecticism and acceptance, an almost-rebellious response to the old school. The contemporary parallels of slick stylishness and alternative movements coexist on the same street, a kilometre long stretch of bohemian utopia.

Rivington Street

Rivington Street

Rivington Street

Rivington Street
The Bedroom Bar

Rivington Street
The Comedy Cafe

Rivington Street
The absolutely lovely ArtWords Book Shop – a tiny treasure trove for resources on contemporary visual arts

Rivington Street

I don’t care what the puritans say about street art. I believe that as much as it can destroy the fabric of a place, not all street art is subversive. Some brings it back from disuse, back into acceptance and back into character from decay and Rivington Street is an excellent example of this. There is a fine line between mindless graffiti and street art, between wasteful self-indulgence and creativity – and instead of trashing all street art as vandalism, I think that line needs to be recognised and that distinction made.
So far this has been one street where I’ve felt completely at ease wielding my camera around. No one gave me a suspicious look, no curious glances were thrown my way. Instead, passers-by smiled at me, nodded in understanding, invited me into their galleries. I was running out of time so didn’t step into many, but I’m so going back yet again. I had a fantastic time clicking this street despite the cold drizzle on my head, my struggle to keep my lens dry, and the failing light.

Oh, and the extra set of batteries helped – I ran out midway.

PS: If you have an opinion on this, I’d love to hear what you think about street art as a legitimate art form in the comments or on email.
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