USA Today couldn’t have said it better. We love the turn from vandalism to desirable artwork in the eyes of the citizens of these prestigious cities. CASS believes Tampa can also be a place to see beautiful street art.
Once dismissed as vandalism, street art is finding new legitimacy, with pieces attracting huge prices at auction. Many cities have designated areas for murals, and offer tours. “It’s real art, majestic colorful works that require a lot of technique,” says Sebastien Laboureau, a Miami-based street art consultant (moonstar.fr). He shares some top places to see the art with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
The Wynwood Art District has become one of the world’s hot spots for murals and wall paintings, featuring works by prominent artists, many who visit during the Miami’s annual Art Basel festival. “It’s an intense concentration. I go to Wynwood every week, and every week I find something new,” Laboureau says. “There’s not a single person who doesn’t smile when they enter the area.” 305-814-9290; wynwoodartwalk.com
The Southern California metropolis plays a huge role in the street art world. In 2011, its Museum of Contemporary Art hosted a controversial exhibit on the topic, helping legitimize the genre. The city’s arts district on the edge of downtown is particularly rich with offerings. “It’s got an amazing concentration of open walls and pieces from some of the most famous street artists in the world,” Laboureau says. discoverlosangeles.com
Street art found an audience in New York in the late 1970s and ’80s, first in the Bronx and then across the boroughs. Works from pioneers like the late Keith Haring now adorn books, posters and shirts around the globe. “He was the father of street art. Everybody thought he was crazy, but he was a nice guy, very clear that he wanted to share his art with everybody,” Laboureau says. Companies like Grafftours.com now introduce visitors to new prodigies in Brooklyn and Manhattan. NYCgo.com
Philly began promoting its street art in the 1970s, and now boasts a dynamic Mural Arts Program. The effort, which started as anti-graffiti initiative, now boasts more than 3,000 murals around the city. One series, “A Love Letter for You” by artist Steve Powers includes 50 rooftop paintings. “When you think it’s the city of our founders, I find it spectacular,” Laboureau says. Tours are offered on foot, trolley, train and Segway. 215-685-0750; muralarts.org
Mural Fest, the largest street art event in North America, attracts more than one million visitors to the French-Canadian city every June. The celebration includes street closures, tours, block parties and the live creation of art. 800-230-0001; tourisme-montreal.org
The once violence-plagued South American city has become a safe and exciting destination for tourists — and street art fans. The scene got global attention in 2013, when singer Justin Bieber went on a police-escorted graffiti-painting spree after a concert, prompting local artists to do the same. “Art is spread all over the city,” says Laboureau, a regular visitor. “You have a young generation of artists that are extremely talented.” bogotagraffiti.com
Brazil’s largest city is dense with paintings from local and visiting artists. “Most international artists have come to Brazil,” Laboureau says. “There’s a culture of being outside and walking outside, and that’s good for street art.” aroundsp.com
There’s no better place in the world to see paintings and stencils by Banksy, the world’s leading street artist, whose work has fetched nearly $2 million. The artist, known for biting social criticism, reached a wide audience through his Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. But works from hundreds of others can be found across the city as well. “Here street art is more political, message-oriented,” Laboureau says. streetartlondon.co.uk
German street art blossomed during the Cold War, when political protesters painted messages on the Berlin Wall. Now the city boasts a rich and varied tapestry on its streets, particularly in the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the Wall covered with paintings. One tour company even includes a street art workshop in a former abandoned margarine factory, where guests can create their own canvas. alternativeberlin.com
Laboureau’s native city has a rich street art tradition. Some of the most important works are found in the suburbs, and French art auction houses host several street art sales every year. Notable artists include Invader, whose works are inspired by cartoon and video game characters, and C215. “He’s painting frescoes and murals in churches and jails,” the consultant says. “He’s using his art to share messages, and show there’s more to our life than daily problems.” streetartparis.fr