Street Art: The Acknowledgement That Matters Most
Following the death of The Prodigy’s lead singer, Keith Flint, an incredible twelve-foot high mural appeared on a legal graffiti wall in Peterborough. Created by street artist Nathan Murdock, it was praised as ‘iconic’ by the band’s former guitarist, but this is just part of a much larger trend for honouring deceased celebrities through street art.
Murals such as this often appear in the wake of a death, and regularly become something of a pilgrimage destination for fans wanting to leave flowers and other tributes. When the legendary David Bowie died in 2016, Manchester-based artist Akse created a tribute mural to his hero, while another appeared on the wall of Morley’s department store, just a short distance from where the singer was born in Brixton.
The untimely death of Amy Winehouse prompted a huge number of graffiti tributes, including another by Akse and murals by Bambi, Jimmy Franck, BToy and RIP, to name a handful. It’s not just figures from the world of music who are commemorated in such a way. Other notable stars who have died in recent years have become the focal point of such street art, including physicist Stephen Hawking, author Terry Pratchett, comic book artist Stan Lee, comedian Barry Chuckle and actor Heath Ledger.
Such murals often become shrines in the aftermath of a death, particularly an unexpected or early one. They are, perhaps, the greatest tribute to a celebrity, a way of publicly honouring them and their work. Once the media circus has had their say and moved on, such artworks tend to remain and last long after the column inches have stopped.
Few could deny that many of them are incredibly beautiful to look at and draw in people who wouldn’t, perhaps, normally express any interest in graffiti as an art form. Often appearing in urban and working-class areas of our cities, they’re a way for the public to express their sadness but also their pride in the hero they’ve lost. They’re art at its most raw and expressive, a public display of celebration which all can enjoy.