The Street Museum of Art (SMoA) is the first public art initiative, which adopts the same guerrilla approach as street artists, interrogating the street in a series of curated exhibitions. fluoro spoke with SMoA about the concept of a ‘museum’ and the unique experience a viewer receives from absorbing art outside of a gallery.
SMoA creates exhibitions by making use of the street art already found around major cities. Generating didactic labels and maps, SMoA aids individuals to interact with the art in their city. Visitors are invited to add to the exhibition by making use of the blank self-adhesive labels (that are available to order on the SMoA website).
SMoA’s guerrilla approach sees them work anonymously, adopting the same tactics as street artists to paste labels that curate the works around the feature city. So far SMoA haven’t had any confrontation with the authorities, but they were keen not to jinx themselves and SMoA maintained their anonymity when fluoro spoke with them.
SMoA challenges the traditional definition of a ‘museum’ through their annual exhibitions, which so far have covered areas of New York and London. Their most recent exhibition ‘Breaking out of the Box’ can be viewed across walls of buildings throughout Chelsea, New York.
(f) Moving out of the ‘white cube’, how do you intend the viewer’s experience to change when you bring the museum to the streets?
(SMoA) The experience is entirely different. There are certain expectations when you plan to visit a museum. Everything is carefully orchestrated — the artificial lighting, climate controlled temperature, meticulous hanging methods, even an intended traffic flow for visitors. The entire experience is carefully planned and thought out for us before we even arrive.
Street artists are doing things differently and the Street Museum of Art is just following their lead.
(f) By placing didactic labels next to the pieces, do you intend visitors to use the language of ‘the gallery’ or ‘the street’ when viewing the works?
(SMoA) When we first came up with the idea for SMoA, we were interested in exploring all that a ‘museum’ symbolizes, [we asked ourselves] – what are the fundamental purposes of art museums?
If you look through any number of mission statements you will find three common goals: to collect, exhibit and preserve. For street art — a movement that is intentionally ephemeral, public and resists containment — this is impossible. But beyond the tangible aspects of these institutions, the ‘museum’ as a cultural hub engages with its community, encourages an exchange of ideas, and promotes an awareness, curiosity and excitement for art.
It doesn’t matter what language our visitors use — what is important is that a conversation is started.
(f) In terms of the ‘Breaking out of the Box’, how do you account for the ephemeral nature of street art in the structure of the exhibition?
(SMoA) That is both the beauty and demise of our exhibitions. It is always exciting to stumble across a work of street art, knowing that it can be there for years or gone tomorrow. This experience can never exist within a traditional gallery or museum. You just have to get out and find the work while it’s there!
SMoA mentioned that they have plans to take their ‘museums’ to other cities around the world that are known for their street art. Melbourne, Australia was suggested as one of the cities they have grand ideas for.
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