‘If graffiti changed anything it would be illegal…’
The infamous Banksy has put his mark on the world with his unique and incredible street art style. Not only does he create amazing pieces of urban art, his work also reflects the state of our society. His messages are powerful and full of meaning, and we should be honoured that this legend’s graffiti is still around for us to see… for free.
The rich and famous pay millions for a Banksy but I think there’s something more special about going seeing his work on the streets as it was meant to be seen.
London, one of the greatest places in the world, is home to some fine Banksy street art. Over the years much of his work has been tagged over, taken down, or taken away by those that want to make a quick buck.
Luckily plexiglass has saved some of Banksy’s most iconic pieces and you can still find his urban art in areas like Shoreditch, Stoke Newington, and Notting Hill. And to save you from trying to find Banksy’s that no longer exist, I’ll show you which ones are worth your while.
There’s no better place to start Banksy hunting than in east London. Not only will you find a few pieces by the famous Bristolian, there’s also a lot of amazing street art by some of the best in the business.
Less than 10 minutes from Shoreditch High Street overground station you’ll find a couple of perfectly preserved Banksy pieces. Head to Rivington Street (EC2A 3AY) and in the garden area of nightclub ‘Cargo’ you’ll find not one, but two Banky’s.
Nearest tube: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street (overground)
This piece is aptly named ‘Prison Guard Poodle’ was added to the wall in 2003 and it’s still in good condition today.
Also in Cargo’s garden area is this piece named ‘HMV Dog’. I didn’t actually realise this Banksy was in the same place as the one above until a while after – so don’t make the same mistake I did.
Staying east and about a 20 minute walk away from Rivington Street, you’ll find Banksy’s ‘Flower Painter’ on Pollard Street (E2 6LR). This piece was added onto the side of a private property in 2007 just two weeks after Hackney Council said they would remove any Banksy work on council houses. They couldn’t do anything about this one though.
Though the ‘flower painter’ himself is now badly damaged and there’s quite a lot of tagging on the wall; the flower is still looking good and it’s definitely one to visit.
Nearest tube: Bethnal Green
Stoke Newington is another cool place that lies in the borough of hipster Hackney. Even if you’re not fussed about graffiti hunting, Stoke Newington is a place that won’t disappoint.
And if you want to find a Banksy head to Church Street (N16 9ET) to find his 2001 piece ‘Clown House’. Now almost covered in black paint there’s not much left left to see, however you can still see the ‘clown’ royal family.
Nearest tube: Stoke Newington (overground)
Hidden away in east London’s Poplar is a piece not as common with Banksy enthusiasts entitled ‘Phone Tap’. This piece can be found in a small car park behind a set of flats on Chrisp Street (E14 OEA), just two minutes away from All Saints DLR station. In this area you’ll also get some stunning views of Canary Wharf.
This is one of my favourite Banksy pieces to date. No one’s tried to steal it or tag over it and it’s not even covered in plexiglass (though last time I saw this piece was September 2014).
The caption reads ‘oh no, my tap’s been phoned’, perhaps this Banksy piece was a take on the phone hacking scandals that were all over the media in 2011. Anyway it’s a classic piece and worth the trek.
Nearest tube: All Saints (DLR)
A short walk down from Angel tube station you’ll find Banksy’s ‘Very Little Helps’ on Essex Road (N1 8NE). This piece has been covered in plexiglass, however it isn’t in the greatest condition. Silver spray paint has ruined some of it, and the Tesco carrier bag has been tagged over by Team Robbo. Still, it’s a good example of Banksy’s stencil style and the rivalry that existed between the graffiti legends. RIP ROBBO.
Nearest tube: Angel
There’s another two Banksy pieces to be found in the borough of Islington and both are only a few minutes walk away from each other. Farringdon Road (EC1R 4SQ) is the place go to, though neither of the pieces are in the best condition, so it might only be worthwhile trip for the most hardened of Banksy lovers. The piece called ‘Cash Machine Girl’ is covered in plexiglass but has been all-but ruined by white paint.
There’s a Banksy rat that’s still visible though…
Nearest tube: Farringdon
Moving towards central London the Banksy’s are pretty spread out so it’s worth planning your route before heading out on a day of Banksy hunting. In Barbican you can still find another one of his famous rats knocking around. Some of the Banksy rats I found had weathered pretty badly and you could only just make out their outlines. This one on the other hand, on Chiswell Street (EC1Y), is still in good condition and is another piece to receive a ‘team Robbo’ tag.
Nearest tube: Moorgate or Barbican
In central London there’s a couple of Banksy’s that lovers of this graffiti legend will surely appreciate. If you can make it through the chaos that is central London – avoiding oncoming tourists and shopaholics – you should be just about able to find these masterpieces.
The first is on piece is on Tottenham Court Road (W1T 5AN) and is one of few ‘Banksy’ stencils left in London. This stencil has been on the lamp post over 12 years now and is still nicely visible today.
Nearest tube: Euston Square or Warren Street
The next and more recent (2011) Banksy piece is about a 10 minute walk away from the stencil on Tottenham Court Road on Clipstone Street (W1W 5D1) just opposite the Tower Tavern. It’s protected by plexiglass but it’s receiving more and more unwanted tags.
Another one of my favourite Banksy pieces ‘Shop til you drop’ is minutes away from the capitalist, consumer-based high streets like Oxford Street and Regent’s Street. You’ve got to love the irony behind his work.
This Banksy is just high enough from ground level to avoid any tagging or damage and it’s still in near perfect condition today. ‘Shop til you drop’ can be found on Bruton Lane (W1J 6PT).
Nearest tube: Bond Street or Oxford Circus
Next up jump on the central line and head towards Notting Hill Gate and the posh end of town. Beautiful white buildings fill the streets, as do luxurious cars. The Banksy piece in Notting Hill is located on Portobello Road (W11 2DY).
Portobello Road is a pretty cool place and has markets every weekend. The smell of weed runs rife through the air and you might think it looks more like Brick Lane than Notting Hill. The weekend stalls sell everything from vintage clothes, fresh fruit and veg, jewellery, street food, antiques, vintage furniture and all that sort of thing. There’s some decent pubs, independent coffee shops, too. There’s even a few shops selling Banksy canvases and memorabilia.
You don’t see much street art in the west end but there’s a few pieces down Portobello Road and the streets nearby.
Anyway, at the bottom of this famous street is another timeless Banksy piece, ‘Master Artist’. Again it’s protected by plexiglass and it’s pretty much in perfect condition. This piece was added to the wall in 2007 and was almost very short lived with the owners of the building putting the wall up for sale on eBay. The bidding war reached over £208,000 but the owners finally pulled the plug on the auction due to a public outcry. When they do come to selling the property I’m sure it’ll add a few extra zeros on the price tag, so I’m sure they’re not too upset.
Nearest tube: Notting Hill Gate
The final Banksy I’m going to talk about is in south London and not too far from the tallest building in western Europe, The Shard. This piece dates back to 2010 and is situated on the side of a café on The Grange (SE1 3AD) just off Grange Road.
This Banksy, inspired by artist Keith Haring’s ‘Barking Dog’, has been preserved under the life-saving plexiglass and remains in excellent condition today.
While you’re in the area I highly recommend taking a trip to Borough Market and sampling a bacon sandwich from ‘Roast to Go’. Best I’ve ever had.
Nearest tube: London Bridge or Bermondsey
There’ll always be more Banksy hunting to be done and there’s still more pieces I want to find in London, Bristol and the rest of the world. It’s a great feeling to be standing in the presence of street art done by the Picasso of graffiti, to see something that art collectors would pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for, and to see his work on the streets of London in such Instagrammable condition. Thanks Banksy.
To get you in the mood for some Banksy hunting I recommend watching: Exit through the gift shop, Banksy does New York and Channel 4’s documentary about King Robbo and Banksy, Graffiti Wars.
Before I leave please let me know if I’ve missed any Banksy pieces in London and as always, graffiti lovers & artists, add comments, share your favourite Banksy’s, and any info I’ve missed.