The only way for someone to truly appreciate the value of contemporary street art is to see both it's place in the lineage of fine art history and the effect it has had on our modern society. Some believe that, after being energized by the work of pioneer graffiti artists in the 1960s, along with other elements of popular culture, artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat went out into New York City and created some of the first real contemporary street art.
This was, of course, later followed years later by such trendsetting artists as Shepard Fairey and the recently crowned king of all street art, Banksy. It is important to understand the connection between the artists who were making art before Banksy, along with realizing the effect that artists such as Banksy will have on future generations of artists who, while never stepping foot in the street with their creations, will eventually make very important contributions to the history of fine art. There is no contemporary street art without artists such as Keith Haring and there is no great art of the future, whatever form it may take, without artists such as Banksy.
For many years people never made the connection between graffiti, street art and the high brow fine art world. This was obviously a huge mistake, which has been more recently corrected by many gallerists, art critics and even art historians. Contemporary street artist Swoon, for example, has already had her work placed into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. There have also been many artists, such as Shepard Fairey and Banksy, who have already warranted their own mid-career retrospectives at major museums and institutes around the world. All of this exposure has brought the work of contemporary street artists to the attention of many young artists, who have begun to be seriously influenced by what they have seen, not only in the streets for the last ten or twenty years, but now in the galleries and even museums.
This 'street work', as it is called, has begun to spawn work from young artists which will only see the interior walls of a building. But there is a connection between the two types of artwork and a strong and important dialog has begun. Even beyond the art world, as we saw in the past with the works of artists such as Andy Warhol, we are seeing contemporary street art influence advertising, movies, television, video games, the Internet and so much more. In the actual streets themselves, many are saying it has become impossible to differentiate between legitimately created street art and images created by film studios and other types of major corporations.
It is true that this has made it more difficult for actual street artists to make as significant an impact as artists such as Banksy did several years ago, but it only reinforces the impact such artwork has had on our world. It is for these reasons that it would be impossible to deny the importance of contemporary street art.