Street art versus fine art

Street art versus fine art
Adrian Doyle

What defines street art and how does it sit with in the fine art world?

The main difference between street art and fine art lies in their contexts and methods of creation …


Fine art is typically created for exhibition in galleries or museums, where it is experienced within a controlled environment. Street art is created in public spaces and is accessible to anyone who encounters it. Fine art often follows a more formal and curated process, while street art embraces the spontaneity and engagement with the surrounding environment.


Fine art tends to target a specific audience, including art enthusiasts, collectors, and curators. Street art, by contrast, reaches a broader and more diverse audience, including people who may not actively seek out art experiences. Street art can surprise and engage people who may not have a particular interest in art, expanding its reach beyond traditional art circles. This also means that it can create a more potent message.

Authority and legality

Fine art is typically created with the knowledge and consent of institutions or private individuals who own the artwork or host the exhibition. Street art, however, often operates outside of official approval, and many street artists face legal challenges due to the unauthorised nature of their work. This aspect of illegality can add an element of rebellion and subversion to street art. Street art works outside the sanctioned space.

Documentation and preservation

Fine art is often carefully documented, catalogued, and preserved to ensure its longevity and historical significance. Street art, on the other hand, is ephemeral in nature and subject to removal, alteration, or degradation over time. While efforts are made to document and preserve street art, its transient nature adds a layer of impermanence and temporality to the medium.

It’s worth noting that the line between street art and fine art can be blurred at times, as some street artists transition into the gallery space or create works specifically for exhibitions. And, some fine artists are also lured to the fame and freedom of urban art. •

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