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Coolest museum? The street


NohJColey Credit: Jaime Rojo

New York features some of the world's greatest art museums, including one you won't see advertised: the streets.

With its rich graffiti legacy, the city has been at the forefront of the street-art movement for more than 40 years.

Today, the city's streetscape offers a cornucopia of remarkable sights, ranging from elaborate murals in Brooklyn to giant building tags and mysterious street  tiles. If you want an authentic taste of the New York street-art world, walk through the city with your eyes open and your brain turned on. You never know what you might find.

"Most of the art you see in galleries and museums was made for money - subtly or overtly, it was created as either home design or tradable securities for the rich," said Jake Dobkin, publisher and co-founder of Gothamist. "Street art isn't always great, but it's usually authentic - it was created by an artist motivated by love and passion, not the grinding pursuit of wealth and fame."

amNewYork takes a look at five notable examples of street art, past and present, and the artists responsible for them:

El Sol 25

El Sol 25, active in Brooklyn for the past couple of years, specializes in handmade, hand-painted composites of people that can often be found on doors and walls.
Steven P. Harrington, editor in chief of, describes him as a "droll mashup enigma" using "a mix-n-match irreverent Girl Talk style" that incorporates a wide variety of images (everything from 3-D glasses to tutus and sex toys), with the goal that you "keep looking at the eye-popping combinations" no matter what response they might provoke.

He is one of the most iconic voices on the scene today, a key cog in the New York street art engine that's driving the movement.

Toynbee Tiles


This cryptic message, or variations on it, has been popping up on mysterious tiles in the middle of busy New York streets since at least the late 1980s. No one's sure exactly what the message means, though it's been tied to the late Philadelphia-based carpenter James Morasco, who proposed the viability of resurrecting the dead on Jupiter.

"The thing to realize is that the Toynbee Tiles don't come from the graffiti world, and they don't really come from the art world either. It's just something totally different," said Jon Foy, director of "Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles," which opens in theaters this summer.

Obey Giant stickers

André the Giant was a major professional wrestler. Yet he's just as famous as the subject of street artist Shepard Fairey's creation, the "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" and, later, the "OBEY Giant" stickers that Fairey plastered across the United States starting in the 1990s. Experts have celebrated the series' anti-authoritarian bent.

Additionally, Fairey created the famous and controversial "Obama Hope" poster and is still a routine presence on the local street-art scene, Dobkin noted.

Cost Rev tags

During the 1990s, graffiti artists Revs and Cost filled the city with their ubiquitous wheatpaste stickers and outsize block-letter tags that covered the sides of buildings. "We want people to say, 'What the hell is going on?'" Cost told The New York Times in 1993, speaking of their work.

Though the duo has hung up its stickers and rollers, remnants of their work can be seen throughout the city today.

In fact, many Cost Revs tags "are still around, only they've been covered up. As their covers wear away or get ripped away, we might see more, like artifacts at an archaeological dig," said Jeremiah Moss, who runs the Vanishing New York blog.


NohJColey, whose work can be seen in Brooklyn, is considered one of the most innovative street artists today. The former graffiti writer's cyborg people - his speciality - are "popping with symbolism, and all come with backstories of their own," Harrington said.

Coley has recently come out with his latest innovation - interactive sculptures with moving limbs.

"NohJ's unhinged imagination and wacky characters are quickly raising the bar and pushing comfort zones," Harrington said.

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