Back in the 1980’s graffiti was seen as a problem in some areas, while others saw it as a way of brighten up the area.
In Brixton, the council began commissioning street art and the London Mural Preservation Society became charged with maintaining it. Some art was by international street artists, while others was by local community groups.
Since 2013, Treasure Hunts in London has been offering Street Art Treasure Hunts around Brixton, exploring some of the amazing art work. Over the years, some of it has been lost and some has been replaced. Such is the nature of street art. Often it is seen as transitory.
Over the years Treasure Hunts in London have been able to update our hunts, replacing the art that was lost with new art being created. We also began making the hunt available as a self guided hunt, playable on your phone, instead of a fully managed hunt with drinks.
However, we had to stop offering this adventure during 2020. Yes, there were the Lockdowns, asking people to stay at home. But, between lockdowns, we were able to review the area and were amazed at how much of the art work has been lost.
Space Invader used to be found above the doorway where Coldharbour Lane meets Atlantic Road. Created by the French urban artist, Invader, when he launched his ninth wave of Invasion against London in 2011. Although the work managed to survive the building changing ownership over the years, all that now remains is the plaster showing where Space Invader once “landed”.
Ironically, the work called Toast by Irony has been almost obscured next to the Just Eat sign!
Not just artwork, heritage has been lost too.
Nuclear Dawn was one of the major art works included on our hunt. It was painted in 1981 by Brian Barnes and Dale McCrea, at the peak of the Cold War, and was one of several ‘peace murals’ commissioned around London at this time. it was locally listed and had two heritage plaques dedicated to it.
As early as 2015, the London Mural Preservation Society was concerned about the proposed development affecting Carlton Mansions, the building on which the 1981 mural Nuclear Dawn was painted. They also applied to English Heritage to get the painting listed. Although it was considered to be an important artwork and was already locally listed, English Heritage listing was not granted as the the mural was expected to stay.
However the building has gone, and with it, the mural.
The London Mural Preservation Society had already seen the beautiful mural in Mauleverer Road, also locally listed, demolished in redevelopment plans. Lucky early Treasure Hunters were able to see the Mauleverer Road Mural. It was painted by Jane Gifford, Ruth Blench, Mick Harrison and Caroline Thorpe in 1983 on the graffitied wall of the old Tuborg factory. The building had been used to stable horses which would deliver lager to the area. In 1992, the mural appeared in a reggae video called ‘On a Ragga Tip’.
Another locally listed piece of street art is David Bowie mural on the side of Morleys that became a shrine to the artist who was born in Brixton. The mural, which was painted by Australian street artist James Cochran was inspired by the album cover of the Thin White Duke’s 1973 record Aladdin Sane.
Hopefully that one, that is now preserved by glass, will stay.
On the plus side, we did spot a lovely new mural in Dorrell Place, on the side of the Marks & Spencer store in Brixton. This 30ft-high homage to Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, was painted by Nottingham-born artist Neequaye Dreph Dsane (aka Dreph).
So we will not be offering street art treasure hunts in Brixton any more. But if you are in the area, look out for new pieces popping up around the streets.