Harajuku — the chic Tokyo neighborhood that spawned a worldwide obsession with cute Japanese clothes and accessories — has been graffitied. A long wall in the hip shopping district now bears the painted legend “NOW IS FOREVER,” in massive block letters.
Celebrated Brooklyn artist Stephen Powers, who started in the 1980s as the graffiti artist ESPO and has been painting walls and canvases ever since, flew to Tokyo in April on a commission from Marc Jacobs. The international fashion powerhouse brought in Powers to sign his new book, “A Love Letter to the City,” at Bookmarc, its high-end bookstore.
Powers took out his spray paints and paint brushes and started transforming the walls nearby. As he worked, sometimes wearing a gas mask to ward off paint fumes, residents and bystanders stared or posed for pictures, holding up peace signs.
It’s a routine he’s followed in other cities, where he and his crew turn swaths of urban landscape into dramatic murals. The words used depend on the location. In Charleroi, Belgium, Powers recently inscribed “Bisous m’chou” (“Kisses, darling”) across the facade of the Charleroi Expo, echoing the endearment that local grandmothers whisper to their grandchildren, he wrote on his blog. In Baltimore this spring, Powers painted “FOREVER TOGETHER” and “I AM HERE BECAUSE IT’S HOME” on a block of vacant houses scheduled to be demolished.
Street art has gained a following among serious collectors, spawning a movement from cinderblock walls into galleries. Artists like the anonymous British graffiti impresario Banksy now command hefty price tags when their works go up for sale. At the intersection of gentrification and urban grittiness, the street-art-chic trend has plenty of runway.
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