Rivington Street is a great place to find street art in London. In particular, the courtyard of the former nightclub Cargo is a must see location. Normally open to the public it contains a number of works by top artists including Banksy.
The entrance to now closed down Cargo was underneath the railway bridge. It was here underneath the archway that Banksy held his first exhibition in London. Look closely and you can even see the framed outline of some white boxes which once contained Banksy stencils from early in his career. Far more relevant nowadays are the pieces from SAM3, Bastardilla and Thierry Noir. Two actual Banksy pieces however do still exist just round the corner in the courtyard.
From Cargo to the Foundry
With Cargo sitting at one end of Rivington Street, the other was once occupied by the Foundry. A legendary venue, it is said that it hosted over 2000 art shows, many of which will have been pop ups. The Foundry is now gone. Demolished with the land set to become a new hotel. During the demolition work some old Banksy art, covered up for years, was re-discovered. Both artworks, a giant rat and a tv being thrown out of a window, will be shown in the new hotel.
Notable street art today on Rivington Street includes pieces from Stik and Thierry Noir. Lot’s of other smaller pieces can also be discovered. The street is a place which attracts artists. Possibly because of the fact that most street art tours will call in here to look at the Banksy pieces. Its roll call of street art is impressive for such a relatively compact area.
SCARY Mural by Ben Eine
Ben Eine’s Scary mural is a notable mural on the street under the railway bridge. It is also one of the longest standing pieces of street art in Shoreditch. The word chosen was always ironic. A reference to what Eine saw as the unreasonable associations people made with graffiti and crime. Most graffiti, Eine says “Is just a tag… by a kid, who has no interest in any other crime apart from expressing himself in a weird way because there’s nothing better for him to do”. Eine’s response to this perception was, according to the artist, “to write the word ‘Scary’ six metres tall and thirty metres long”.
Ben Eine talks about his SCARY Mural on Rivington Street
Ben Eine interview with Art Related Noise. He talks about the origins of his SCARY mural 11 minutes in.
Since that first mural was created in August 2007 it has had an exceptional run. Using black and white letters on a red background over the years it became a part of the fabric of the street. In 2019 Eine himself decided that it needed a refresh. Changing up the background he painted it yellow with a series of blue mustaches in support of Movember. The piece was re-imagined to encourage men to take a more positive approach to their mental health. However Eine then changed it back once again to it’s original form.
Banksy Legacy on Rivington Street
Banksy’s connection with Rivington Street go back to when he is first thought to have moved to London around 2000. Indeed it is here where he had his first exhibition in the city. Essentially a pop up show, he described it as a retrospective of his work. Painting a series of stencils from his back catalogue he covered the walls either side of where the entrance to Cargo is today. What is now the entrance was a former utility entry that had long since been blocked up. He stenciled on that too.
The date of the exhibition was 31 May 2000. He explains that he had the idea for a show whilst coming out from a pub one evening. Arguing with a friend, they were considering just how easy it would be to hold an exhibition in London without asking anyone’s permission. Speaking to a reporter from the Independent just beforehand he said that “on the wall will be my greatest hits”.
Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall
Banksy describes the incident in the 2001 book ‘Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall‘. Saying… “A week later we came back to the same tunnel with two buckets of paint and a letter. The letter was a forged invoice from a mickey mouse Arts organisation wishing us luck with the “Tunnel Vision mural project”. We hung up some decorators signs nicked off a building site and painted the walls white wearing overalls. We got the artwork up in twenty five minutes and held an opening party later that week with beers and some hip hop pumping out the back of a transit van”.
Banksy Cargo Murals
The following year Banksy would return to the same venue though this time with a two week exhibition. Cargo itself would become a place he would return time again. Two pieces can still be seen in the courtyard. The first, dating from 2003, is a single layer black and white stencil image. It shows a policeman holding a poodle and is very reminiscent of a lot of his style at the time. The image of the copper is something Banksy has returned to a number of times. “My problem with cops” says Banksy. “Is that they just do what they are told. They say ‘sorry mate I’m just doing my job’. All the fucking time”.
The second Banksy piece in the Cargo coutyard is a collaboration with the artist Stylo from the VOP (Visual Orgasm Productions) crew. It shows a version of the HMV logo where the dog, instead of listening to his masters voice on the gramophone is ready to blast it with a bazooka. Stylo has surrounded the piece with an orange letter piece which spells out his name.
Rivington Street Gallery
The Railway Bridge
Looking down from Shoreditch High Street towards the famous railway bridge where the former Cargo nightclub was. Ben Eine’s Scary mural is on the left hand side. Pieces from SAM3 and Bastardilla are also still going on the right. It is here where Banksy held his first London exhibition.
The famous venue on London’s Rivington Street used to play host to a number of street art events. It eventually evolved to be more of a business space but from between 2000-2010 the work here would change fairly frequently. The courtyard space in particular would be used to host art events and launches.
Rivington Street to Curtain Road
From Cargo looking down towards Curtain Road which Rivington Street crosses. A large work from Stik can be seen in the foreground which art from Thierry Noir running along the first floor of the old warehouse buildings.
Curtain Road to Old Street and the Old Foundry
Once a lot more active than it is today, the section from Curtain Road to Old Street has become a lot more santised. Still there are pieces to be seen however. At the moment most art is set around the hoardings through which there is a building site. It is here where the Foundry once stood, soon to be replaced with a new hotel.
Five Must See Murals on Rivington Street
Time needed: 20 minutes.
A Quick Guide to some of the Best Murals to See on London’s Rivington Street
- Scary by Ben Eine
A long standing mural it was originally a play on the perceived fear of graffiti by the public. It has since been updated to support the Movember movement
- His Master’s Voice by Banksy
A very rare collaboration by Banksy who painted this piece with the graffiti artist Stylo. It can be found in the courtyard of Cargo
- Policeman with Poodle
Another piece in the courtyard of Cargo this is a typical Banksy in style in that it is a black and white single layer stencil. It is this style which made his name
- Resting Figure by Stik
Painted tall on the side of an old warehouse building is a resting figure from local artist Stik
- Various Murals by Thierry Noir
Thierry Noir has kind of taken over many stretches of this street. His work was originally made famous because he used to draw his characters on the Berlin Wall
- Flickr – Extracts from ‘Banking Your Head Against a Brick Wall’ and the ‘Cheeky Monkey’ Article in the Independent by Fiona McClymont
- BANKSY AS TRICKSTER: THE RHETORIC OF STREET ART, PUBLIC IDENTITY, AND CELEBRITY BRANDS by Elizabeth J. Westendorf
- Banksy Buffs Bag Bargains – Squall Magazine
- Banksy: Urban Art in a Material World by Ulrich Blanche
- Art Related Noise Podcast with Ben Eine
- Archive Copy of ‘Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall, 2001’
For more articles featuring art in Shoreditch, take a look at:
There’s new work by WRDSMTH and OSCH in the viaduct courtyard (used to be Cargo)