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Street Art Awards 2008

Street art will get its first awards event in December and the winners will be chosen by the public.

Street art has brought democracy to the art world. It has created a do-it-yourself culture where Damien Hirst can sell his artwork directly at auction and a random Banksy on the wall of your house can raise its value by £200,000. In this prevailing democratic spirit the first Street Art Awards will take place on 4 December at Rough Trade East, when the best piece of street art from 2008 will be announced. Members of the public can vote online or cast a ballot on the night.

“A lot of the art world has been judged by the Daily Mail or the Guardian art critic who tell people what is good art and what is bad art,” says Mark Bracegirdle, founder of the awards. “Or it’s been judged by the wallet, so the most expensive art is perceived as the best.”

Street art, it seems, has changed all that. So when Jonathan Jones (art critic for the Guardian) wrote on his blog, “Banksy is a thick person’s idea of a radical artist. [Cy] Twombly is a thinking person’s,” he justifiably came under fire from readers for peddling the myth that museum art is cleverer than street art. 

Last December Bracegirdle launched Auction Saboteur, an online platform for buyers and sellers of urban art to trade without the fees imposed by auction houses. He has YBA Gavin Turk as well as the usual street art suspects including Banksy and 3D on his books, a telling combination in a climate where contemporary artists are getting street and street artists are getting savvy about the art world. 

The idea behind Auction Saboteur is not streets apart from the idea behind Hirst’s recent sale at Sotheby’s: “The street art community was moving away from the concept of using agents, middlemen and galleries and they were beginning to take a kind of punk DIY ethic to trade,” Bracegirdle says. “So I thought I could make a gallery that was actually just networked so people could buy and sell to each other in a quick and user-friendly kind of way.”

Bracegirdle quips that Hirst nicked his idea, perhaps not so wide of the mark when you consider Hirst’s affinity for street art. Either way, what is clear is that contemporary art and street art are converging on a single market that is more democratic, accessible and possibly affordable. 

Indeed, on the night of the Street Art Awards winners of a charity tombola could walk away with an original artwork painted on a record sleeve or piece of vinyl. Tombola tickets will sell for £5, a bargain if you walk away with a Matt Small or Holly Thoburn under your arm.

Street Art Awards, Rough Trade East, 4th December.