A trip to Brick Lane, located in London’s East End, is always on our London to do list no matter the length of our visit. The area has been through many transformations over the years, and even within the decade plus that we’ve been visiting. Its hard to believe that this now trendy neighborhood was once a poor slum and the scene of the notorious Jack the Ripper’s infamous crimes.
The area is famously known for the large concentration of Bangladeshi restaurants, but the most recent metamorphosis of the district includes fantastic street art, hip markets, galleries filled with emerging artists and trendy clubs.
The Brick Lane Cultural Trail
In fact Brick Lane isn’t just one street anymore, but rather a collection of streets known as the Brick Lane Cultural trail. The area has a great vibe making it a great place for a photo tour, bite to eat, or just to wander. Handy signs have been installed throughout the area, which will both guide and educate visitors about the area’s rich history and culture.
It’s almost impossible to ignore the pull from the barker’s who stand outside the many curry houses lining the streets, and at some point you’re going to give in to one of them. If you’re stronger than me, and are able to withstand the pressure, consider grabbing a bite at one the area’s pop up markets instead. Either way, once you’ve filled up its time to start exploring. My main interest in the area is public and urban art, but you’ll find shops and galleries worth poking in and out of as well.
Street Art & Graffiti
The area is covered in art and you’ll find pieces by well known artists as well as many who are just getting started. People come from around the world to make their mark. Some are commissioned, and others clearly not, some are political in nature, and others just lovely, while others are strange, or even at times frightening.
Due to the nature of street art and graffiti the walls of this colorful neighborhood are constantly changing, but I still had hopes of finding a specific piece by London artist Fanakapan. I’m a big of fan of his shiny photorealistic style, and his work is often found in this area. I didn’t find the piece, but I found something even better: Fanakapan himself! As soon as I saw a man painting, and the shiny work in progress, I knew it was him.
He graciously took the time to speak with me and we took a photo together, but like many street artists Fanakapan prefers not to show his full face online. He gave me permission to post this one with his face partially covered.
The piece he was working on was clearly political. It shows a fox (Trump) holding a dead duck in its mouth with more ducks (Americans) blindly following behind. Because we made multiple visits to the neighborhood we were able to watch the progression of this piece.
Paste-ups , Stencils, Graffiti and Murals
With so much art covering everything top to bottom I wasn’t always able to determine who the artists were, and it was next to impossible to remember exactly where I was when I spotted it. The gallery below is just a sample of what I saw. Whenever possible I’ve included artist information in the captions.
I love the whimsical, yet at times very political nature of Osch’s work and if you look carefully you’ll spot the clever work of Clet on the area’s street signs. Keep your eye out for Jaune’s mini dudes because they’re keeping an eye out for you.
A visit to Brick Lane is a visual and cultural feast of sights, sounds, flavors and goings on. If you haven’t already I urge you to include this always evolving never boring London institution to your itinerary.