While New York is known for its skyscrapers, busy, crowded streets, always-bustling nightlife, and museums, it is also a famous destination for another type of noise: graffiti. Styles vary throughout the city and its boroughs, with well-known artists and trending taggers that are using the sidewalks and buildings as their canvas. While some of these masterpieces are aimed at provoking social change and sending pointed messages, others are simply eye catching enough to snap a selfie next to the next time you’re visiting. Here’s where to find the city's best street art.
1. Long Island City, Queens
A (mile or so) long stone’s throw to Manhattan’s east side, Long Island City is a few stops into queens from the metro and has cutesy art shops and industrial styles. Over the past decade, Long Island City real estate and rent has grown in popularity and price, and with it, so has the art scene. Two Iranian brothers who call themselves Icy and Sot, are stencil artists who use their work to spread international urban culture. Their work is colorful and creative, and often sends a message about political issues, human rights or the environment.
Another famous graffiti mecca, also in LIC, is 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, which is an outdoor art exhibit space. It’s a 200,000-square-foot factory building that has welcomed international artists from Switzerland to Brazil to tag their messages. Artists like Stay High 149, Tats Cru, Part, Cope2, and Tracy 168 have all painted here. Fun fact? The name comes from the five boroughs of New York, and is curated by artists Jonathan Cohen who hopes to one day convert this destination into a graffiti art museum.
2. Bushwick, Brooklyn
Ask any New Yorker about Bushwick and they’ll likely roll their eyes about how it’s quickly becoming the new Williamsburg (expensive, sceney) but they’ll also tell you about the countless graffiti masterpieces throughout the many stops along the L. Walking through the streets here, it’s nearly impossible not to pass by all sorts of art, including Buff Monster, who is most known for using his go-to color of choice: pink. In addition to graffiti, he also has shown at galleries all over the world. Another well-known tagger is Toofly who creates inspiring and powerful images of women. She’s a woman tagger originally from Ecuador and tries to show all the dimensions of female beauty throughout her pieces. While these are two of the better known artists, Bushwick has so much (amazing) art, there's even an organized walking tour to see all of it, complete with a guide who can explain the varying artists, histories, and purposes.
3. East Village and Lower East Side
If you venture downtown past 14th street and all the way over the Avenue A, you’ll find yourself in the lively, artsy East Village neighborhood that quickly leads into Alphabet City and the Lower East Side. Known for basically every type of food known to the world and it’s varying nightlife — clubs and dive bars compete in numbers — this side of town also hosts some of the best art. One fun artist is Jerkface who creates cartoon characters in random places throughout the Village. Zeso is another artist who is colorful, but darker — usually focusing on tough subjects and a more gothic feel. Deeper into Manhattan’s Lower East Side, you’ll find Hansky art, which pokes fun at popular culture and politics. You might find yourself snapping a quick Insta of Magda Love’s work, which is much more lighthearted and colorful, usually creating a scene you could totally see yourself in.
4. The Bronx
Likely one of the most well-known places to spot graffiti in the Big Apple is further north in the Bronx, specifically East 173rd Street at West Farms Road, which is dubbed the Bronx Wall of Fame. While there are rumors the city might get rid of this historical artist land — where taggers like Iz the Wiz, Phetus, and MSK Crew have shared their work — and turn it into public housing, it’s definitely a site to see before it’s gone. You’ll find wild styles and murals, messages, and other forms of art.
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