The Best European Street Artists
Top 10 List of the greatest street artists ever hailing from Europe. The list covers the most prolific, impactful and far-reaching artists who are originally from Europe (though they may not currently live there). Europe features one of, if not the, greatest street artists in the world. While the modern graffiti art form we celebrate today originated in New York, the archaic form of graffiti can be traced back to Rome, Italy. The term itself has an Italian name and means: "Writing or drawings painted (typically illicitly) on a wall or surface in a public place." These are the ten best artists from Europe to ever use the streets as their canvas.
Everything about Banksy is a mystery that gleefully pulls us deeper and deeper into his mad, mad work. Even the pronunciation of his name is up in the air with many saying “Bansky” instead of the appropriate “Banksy.” He expressed his dislike of the London Olympics through stylized stencils and took New York by storm in October, 2013 with his Better Out Than In roving street art gallery. He’s created Oscar-nominated films and caught the attention of the highest bidding fans in the world. One of his works, “Keep it Spotless,” sold for $1.8 Million. Love him or hate him, there’s no debating his impact and firm hold as the greatest European street artist ever.
Blek Le Rat
Blek Le Rat, the pseudonym of street artist Xavier Prou, is hailed as the father of stencil graffiti. He began using the quicker form of application after being arrested by police in his home country of France. This art form allowed him to post iconic works all around the world then quickly escape into the night. Blek Le Rat's early use of this now standard style and his fascinating subject matter - whether political or solely for the beauty - influenced subsequent street artists, including Banksy.
The French street artist has posted iconic, 8-bit influenced tile works all across the globe. Look up at any street corner in a major city (or its suburbs) and you could see his work. Invader, named after the classic 8-bit arcade game Space Invaders, originally hails from France. The prolificity and simplicity of his work is what makes his street pieces (at times constructed of Rubik's Cubes) so arresting. His cousin is Mr. Brainwash, a fellow street artist. Invader has been featured in world-reknown art exhibitions, including Exit Through the Gift Shop and Art in the Streets at the MOCA in Los Angeles.
French-born street artist/photographer JR Artist has successfully captured the attention of the streets and blue blood leaders with his high profile, large and multi-functional art. He’s known most recently for his Inside Out Project where he shoots black and white portraits using his camera, creates wheat paste posters of the subject, then posts them in iconic locations around the world. Thus far, over 100,000 participants have been posted in over 100 cities around the world. It’s this high level of work ethic and detailed attention to his street art craft that has given JR Artist this high ranking.
The Austrian-born street artist has made a name for himself through his style rooted in anatomical separation (as stated by Juxtapoz Magazine). He’s tackled a wide range of styles and sizes, from deconstructed mammals on the side of buildings to iconic pop characters, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Donald Duck and Spongebob Square Pants. His work is widespread from his home country in Europe to the West coast of the USA (notably a huge tiger mural in San Francisco and Spongebob in Los Angeles). Nychos has expanded outside of just street art with a popular website, retail line and his Rabbit Eye Movement cafe in Vienna, Austria.
El Nino de las Pinturas
Since he picked up a brush at the age of 10, this “child amongst the painters” has always tackled projects that appear beyond his grasp. El Nino de las Pinturas is a free-hand graffiti artist who incorporates humans, wheels and cogs, and strong landscape/cityscape scenarios into his street art. His work has been produced on the front, back and side of huge buildings in his home in Granada, Spain, as well as in large indoor/outdoor locations in New York City. He has also been published in the book, A Traves del Muro (Through the Wall).
He is a Spanish artist (originally from Barcelona) with a flare for huge murals. Aryz (pronounced Air-Eez) uses rollers and acrylic paint to create gargantuan works of art in both large and small cities on almost every continent. His style could be labeled as fairly muted, but all of his works are still overflowing with colors and cartoonish imagery that can be quite powerful. In Europe, one can find his work in Germany, Poland, Bosnia and Italy (to name a few). In the USA, one can find his work in San Francisco and New York (to name a couple).
The UK artist INSA has changed so much in his time in the public lime light. A viewer of his street art can literally watch it move and change in the highly viewed GIFs that he creates. His works, which are meticulously created by the artist (and sometimes with his co-artists), are dubbed “GIF-itti.” INSA has extended beyond street art and dipped - quite successfully - into fashion design and retail (such as his collaboration with denim brand Evisu). Passionate fans can see his works from Europe to Art Basel Miami (which takes place every December in the US).
Alice Pasquini has been hailed as a brilliant illustrator and artist displaying her work in the public spaces of the USA, France, England and her home town of Rome, Italy. She is progressive and overtly uplifting in her works of art, which often feature “strong, independent” women. Yet, she can also be playfully whimsical, like the work below where she showcases the simple beauty of a child blowing bubbles. Her vibrant colors match a playful style that have been adorned on both large buildings and canvases. Her website carefully keeps up with all of her work going on around the world.
Based out of Poland, the Etam Cru struck recently while the proverbial street art iron was piping hot. They have a high level of originality, authenticity and talent. The duo of Bezt and Sainer create awe-inspiring artwork that is not photo-realistic, but pulls you into the scene as if you’re truly living it. They’ve hit walls from Europe to Hawaii. They’ve incorporated bathing women, old women clutching chickens and polar bears. At times their subjects are painted on the original facade of the building, while other times they create huge explosions of color that serve as mesmerizing backdrops. Bezt and Sainer are incredible street artists in their own rights and often produce their own independent street art projects.
European street artists are some of the very best in the world. They may hail from Poland or England or Italy, but their dedication to the beautiful craft of street art has brought them across oceans where they've placed their work on the urban landscapes of the United States, Asia, South America and beyond. As with all art, this list is widely open to interpretation, disdain or agreement. I listed these street artists based on their impact on the overall street art movement, their mass collection of work and how far that collection reaches beyond their home towns.