Review: Beyond the Streets London at Saatchi Gallery ★★
Hotly anticipated yet pricey £25 Beyond the Streets London exhibition sadly falls flat with very little pow.
It completely misses the contemporary power of street art now.
Go to Shoreditch for free and give this corporate takeover a swerve unless you’re a street art aficionado.
Beyond the Streets London | Saatchi Gallery | 17 February – 9 May 2023 | £25
The whole Saatchi Gallery has been taken over for Beyond the Streets London, a blockbuster income generator of an exhibition sponsored (perhaps over-sponsored) by ultimate street brand Adidas Originals. A brand who are so loved and classic yet were founded in 2001, immortalising the iconic trefoil logo from 1972.
The 13 rooms of the exhibition are cluttered, repetitive and ultimately don’t show the best of street art history and contemporary work from a global perspective. The USA is the star attraction with some insight around subway art, NYC and Chicago scenes. Guerrilla Girls, rejection of art norms seemed a clunky way to include women in the show when there are many more graffiti legends from across the gender spectrum who could have been featured.
The works are very Instagram-friendly but the experience in person is claustrophobic and not enjoyable. There’s no space to contemplate or have any space to yourself and it felt like they were letting far too many people in per time slot.
Standout pieces include impressive walls of flyers from punk/DIY era, Kenny Scharf’s neon closet and a Puppet Repair shop installation that is guaranteed to make you smile.
Sadly the true spirit of graffiti and street art as a living form isn’t captured with many featured being more seasoned artists. A tiny table of Keith Haring was a disappointing tribute to a queer icon.
Beyond the Streets London is made for the Instagram/TikTok generation, so barely scratches the surface, with little respect for street art as a DIY and anti-establishment form.
This is graffiti made corporate, get back to the streets if you want to see stand out work. Waterloo’s Leake Street Tunnel is free and far more impressive.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.
Waste of money in my opinion. Poorly curated and terrible execution of displays. Lack of continuity throughout – learned nothing whatsoever. The text didn’t speak to me in a way that was easy to understand and it appeared to be written for an audience who already know the reference points. The whole point was to tell an amazing story but for me there was a real lack of narrative. The makeshift record shop was not explained – so it was a vinyl collection of graffiti based record sleeves? Again – not explained. Then there was a till? I thought when I entered all the vinyl was was sale – but doh!! no it was part of the exhibition. A massive disappointment about the graffiti workshop which was a no-go due to health and safety reasons. Just a very weak stencilling workshop for a canvas bag no bigger than a pencil case. This subject had massive potential – I am no expert in any respect but even I could have done better. All in all a massive wasted opportunity – I am so disappointed.
We agree on this one.