Tag Archives: murals

Here Comes the Neigborhood: Mural of Basquiat Ups Real Estate Values in Hip Gentrifying Hood

There’s a pattern of tell-tale signs that indicate that a once-undesireable neighborhood is undergoing gentrification. One of these signs is the changing nature of street art, and, more tellingly, the arrival of public art.

Although street art is kind of constant throughout the gentrification process, it’s usually in abundance in the neighborhood pre-gentrification and continues to pop up more frequently and blossom as the process unfolds. What’s different over time is the type of street art and its content and how it changes as the neighborhood gentrifies.

As the process plays out and rents and condos become more expensive, the street art becomes “neater,” bigger, less controversial, broader in appeal, and more referential of the established traditional post-modern and contemporary art canon.

More importantly, the street art you see starts to be commissioned rather than illicit. Galleries pop up. Art “events” appear. There’s public art. There are bigger and bigger murals. The “street art” at this stage is increasingly really officially developer-approved mural work by established street art figures and established non-street artists instead of “guerilla” artworks painted in the dark of night. 

The mural pictured here in the Los Angeles Arts District depicting the late, great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat seems to fall somewhere in between the official and unofficial, a signpost somewhere in the middle of the gentrification-process spectrum. In and of itself, it is not significantly remarkable. In the context of the streets, it’s awesome, it’s cool, and will add to the area’s cachet for would be home buyers and investors who love it and want to tap into the “cool” of the Arts District.

The artwork is adding value. Rents will go up — ARE going up — and fast!  (In fact, since you started reading this, the average monthly listing price on a 400 square-foot studio apartment in the area has probably increased by $2,416.39, to the penny.)

The painting is by the very talented artist Alex Ali Gonzalez, and it’s self-referential for the art world and also a kind of visual, symbolic creative cue, an homage to an important beloved artist and what that artist represents — Basquiat started out by creating graffiti and street art in what at the time were the derelict streets of downtown Manhattan, an area of New York City that is now completely gentrified and unaffordable for most people.

Basquiat symbolizes something for both the struggling young artist being priced out of the Arts District and to the property developer turning a textile warehouse or widget factory into multi-million dollar condos affordable by only the wealthy, who it has been observed are often people who are not professionally creative and often lack imagination in a way that is inversely proportional to their wealth.

Neighborhoods pass through phases of gentrification, from pre- and “pioneer” phases through to “early hipster,” “late hipster” and “second,” “third,” “fourth” waves, etc., and finally “establishment” phase. (You’ll know the last phase because hipsters are no longer moving to the neighborhood and there’s at least one condo with its own private elevator.)

The Arts District of Los Angeles, which is really the industrial area that’s psychologically an extension of Downtown LA (DTLA) is not at the establishment phase of gentrification, but it’s very close, or rather at least pockets of it are really close. Other areas, not so much. It’s a vast area that could easily be divided up in to two or three distinct neighborhoods.

But there’s more and more large-to-epic scale commissioned street art. Look for more images of the Basquiats and Warhols and others of the artworld Pantheon in the future and fewer “Kook Streets” and “Wrdsmths” and “Banksys” (although, given the monetary and cultural value of a Banksy artwork at this point, it would actually be a welcome addition even on an expensive DTLA condo, maybe it would be painted inside that private elevator.) 

Back-Alley Street Art Mural … Mission District, San Francisco

The Mission District of San Francisco is rife with street art and graffiti, much of it in the miles of alleyways running behind the apartment buildings and shops that line the main streets. The alley allows artists to work with some degree of privacy and offers lot of spaces for big murals.

“Muck Saves” Street Art by Jules Muck … Venice, Los Angeles

It seems like on just about every block and around every corner in Venice’s clashed-up grid of narrow streets and alleys, there’s a piece of street art by artist Jules Muck. His awesome corpus of public artwork is both literally and figuratively part of the Venice landscape, as much a part of this confused suburban costal paradise as its famous beach boardwalk. “Muck Saves” is a Christ-like portrait and play on the evangelical bumper-sticker phrase “Jesus Saves.” One could argue that Muck’s art is “saving” Venice. But from what? The tide of gentrification? That urban-renewal process inspired by association with Venice’s edgy patina and legacy of gritty charms. A process that’s simultaneously forever sanding away those gritty edges with the moneyed tastes of the arrivistes? Yes and no. Places change, evolve, grow. It can’t be “saved” any more that it can not be saved. Muck’s work is just a beautiful part of an already beautiful landscape.

Beach Scene Mural … Ocean Park, Los Angeles

This mural is an accurate depiction of beach life on just about any given day at Santa Monica Beach. It can be found at the entrance to an alley off Bay Street just east of Main Street in the “Dogtown” area of Santa Monica’s Ocean Park (At the corner of Bay and Main is Dogtown Coffee, which occupies the space that was once home to the legendary Zephyr surf shop a la “Lords of Dogtown.”)

Beach Surf Scene Mural … Carlsbad, California

This beautifully evocative mural of a beach scene filled with surfers is by artist Shawn David Baker. The artwork was created in 2012 on the exterior wall of a liquor store in the Village of Carlsbad in San Diego County, California.

Boy in a Tree Mural by Artist Snyder … Carlsbad, California

We spotted this cute mural in the parking lot of a popular, local greasy-spoon Mexican food joint called Ceccy’s in Carlsbad, an affluent seaside village north of San Diego, California. The mural is signed by the artist Bryan Snyder and shows a boy who has climbed into a tree and is reaching out for a single leaf at the end of a branch. There are few leaves on the tree. Most of them have piled up on the ground below. The image quietly suggests that the boy may have disturbingly plucked all the leaves from the tree. The painting is rendered in style that looks like something you’d see in a children’s book illustration, adding an element of innocence and whimsy.