Nick Walker, VANDAL– Steven Talero
For the next stop, we come to a building located off the intersection of Roebling Street and Metropolitan Avenue. If you turn your attention to this wall, you will see a wall. Now at first you may be thinking, “Why am I being shown a empty wall?” but this wall serves as an important aspect to the purpose of this tour. As stated earlier, the point of this tour is to show how graffiti in Williamsburg has changed, and how these changes reflect the gentrification the area is going through. Not too long ago, this empty wall had a piece of graffiti done by Nick Walker, who is a known artist of the area, but it has since been painted over.
Nick Walker is an artist from England who has become a very well known artist. He is most famously known for his stencil graffiti work. One of the things he is most known for is the gentleman that he almost always paints with his pieces. This man wears a hat and he is known as Vandal. Today, Walker’s pieces go for a lot of money, and his work has been featured in movies and music videos. It was strange to see that the piece created by such a renown artist had been painted over.
As I said, the wall used to be the home for one of Nick Walker’s Vandal pieces. The wall used to have a large giraffe painted on it, and right above the window, the word “Vandal” was painted. Opposite of the giraffe, is a man staring at the giraffe. This man is seen in almost all of Walker’s pieces. To see that the piece has been covered up is an example as to how Williamsburg is changing. Years ago, the area of Williamsburg used to be home for many artists who were looking for a place to live without having to pay a lot of money for rent. These artists also saw the area as a place to express themselves through art. Williamsburg was a blank palette to them. However, there were still people who were against the art, and thus started the fight for street art in the area. Eventually the area became really popular and attracted lots of people because of the various pieces of graffiti art that could be seen. However as time has gone by, the area attracted wealthier people who were attracted to the growing amount of art. The cost of living started to increase and the idea of graffiti art was beginning to become accepted, but to a certain extent. The art of Williamsburg originally showcased the fight for expression, but soon the message being conveyed started to change.
With wealthy gentrifiers moving in, new residential buildings with high rent rates started to appear. A higher standard of living was starting to set in, and so now graffiti art was being used as a marketing strategy to attract people to the area. The art became less focused on expression and more about economics. As a result, there have been a lot of pieces that are being painted over, because they are not aesthetically appealing or beneficial to the area. Walker’s piece on this building on the corner of Roebling Street and Metropolitan Avenue was one of the ones that were painted over as a result of gentrification.
Now buildings and stores are using graffiti as a way to fit in the area. Since graffiti had become a trademark of the area, these new luxury stores and buildings started to hire artist to paint graffiti pieces on the sides of their buildings in order to attract people. Other pieces that did not help attract people were often painted over.