What do sports, the Grammys, and graffiti have in common? They’ve all got their own halls of fame, dedicated to the giants and geniuses of their field. Graffiti Halls of Fame, though, couldn’t be more different from their well-known, well-regulated counterparts – they’re essentially galleries of street art, colourful hubs where artists new and renowned can hone their craft. From the OG site in New York to the local walls blossoming across the world, here’s what the graffiti world’s Hall of Fame is all about.
From Harlem Schoolyard to Hall of Fame
The world’s first known Graffiti Hall of Fame harks back to 1980s New York, when community activist Ray Rodriguez (aka ‘Sting Ray’) took over the derelict walls of an East Harlem schoolyard and made it a (semi-illicit) playground for graffiti artists to hone their skills. Soon enough, the four walls of the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex were drawing in up-and-coming street artists across the ‘hood, who made the concrete bloom with colourful, expressive murals.
Four decades on, the Graffiti Hall of Fame has become a cultural attraction visited – and painted – by graf greats from around the world. It’s an annual summer tradition for street artists to gather and spray here, with the likes of BG183, Nick Walker, and Daze leaving their marks. Graffiti in NYC might be more trendy than rule-breaking these days, but it’s still always at risk of being painted over – Queens’ graffiti mecca of 5 Pointz, for instance, was painted over and later demolished to make way for luxury apartments. In a city where gentrification and culture collide, the Graffiti Hall of Fame remains a powerful sanctum for hip-hop and Harlem’s history.
Halls of Fame ‘Round the World
New York’s iconic wall has laid the foundation for several Halls of Fame around the world, each with its own wild, local stories to tell. Sydney’s Graffiti Hall of Fame sprung up in the early-1990s, when philanthropic businessman Tony Spanos turned his meatworks factory into a haven for youths and indigenous groups. The only rule here was free expression – local crews were invited to run riot on its walls with wildstyle graffiti, and it became a key venue for Sydney’s burgeoning rave and techno scene. One decade of spectacular parties and many police raids later, it was shut down to make way for new developments in 2004.
Known for its thriving street art scene, it’s no surprise that London too has had its Stockwell Hall of Fame since the 90s. Tucked away in a residential district of Lambeth, it is a basketball court like no other – with four walls blanketed in layers upon layers of paint. With international names like Bronx-based Tats Cru and LA legend Slick having painted a piece here, it’s a hallowed place to play ball.
Meanwhile, Stockholm’s Hall of Fame is one of the newest kids on the block, breathing colourful new life into an abandoned industrial estate. Set in the old industrial quarter of Snösätra, this was an area quietly sinking into oblivion – until 2014, when a motley crew of graffiti enthusiasts transformed over 1km of its walls into one of Europe’s largest street art displays. An annual street art festival happens each spring, with hundreds of artists descending on the neighbourhood to paint, have graffiti battles, and chill out to live beats.
Here in Singapore, we don’t need to feel left out. Our little red dot has its very own Hall of Fame this April 2021 in the buzzy art enclave of Kampong Gelam. Stay tuned!