Conservation of Street Art Works

In the ’50s and ’60s a group of anonymous young people, called “kids” and coming from the poorest and most marginalized neighborhoods of New York, wrote with permanent marker in protest on the walls of the city. The term “graffiti” was coined by the media with a very negative meaning and today can be considered as the most recent and direct ancestor of today’s Street Art. In 1971, a journalist wrote in the New York Times an article entitled “‘Taki 183’ Spawns Pen Pals” about a certain Taki 183 who had covered the entire city with his tag. For the first time attention was given to the world of writing, which had developed to the point that it could no longer be ignored. Street Art was born from the need for a new artistic expression, even primitive and chaotic. This art form is now a social, cultural and artistic ceremony that originated in the graffiti boom in New York in the 1970s, and had its greatest expansion with the advent of the spray can in the Bronx.

Street Art is therefore an artistic expression of the 21st century and refers to those art forms that come to life in public places: walls, streets, stations, benches, and in all those urban elements that street artists see as an alternative canvas. If initially it was an unrecognized expression, often made illegally, today it is commonly commissioned by those who want to redevelop urban spaces that are in a state of neglect. Suffice it to mention some of the most important urban musealization projects in Rome. Born in 2010, MURo is the first museum project integrated in the social fabric. The first works were created in the Roman neighborhoods of Quadraro and Torpignattara, creating a real museum that has since spread throughout Rome. In 2015, instead, there was the urban requalification project of the Roman area of Tor Marancia, “Big City Life” whose goal was to create a district of contemporary public art unique in the world, involving in this process the local community, schools and neighborhood associations.

These works have always been considered ephemeral manifestations of art, created in an often provocative, activist and denunciatory spirit, a current message that did not necessarily need to be preserved over time. In recent years there has been a significant change in their recognition as works of art to be preserved over time, which has given rise to the first scientific research and experiments to determine the best strategies for conservation and restoration. They are true contemporary masonry works that are very complex because they are made of heterogeneous materials that are still little used in the field of cultural heritage. They are works that are located in an outdoor environment and therefore are directly subject to pollution and atmospheric variables as well as, and above all, to vandalism. In addition, given the ephemeral nature, the artist often did not worry about the choice of support or materials to be used. Precisely for these reasons, the primary objective of the project is to identify the best strategies for the preservation and protection of works of Street Art, especially in view of the particular types of paint that are used by artists. The main objective of the experimentation is to study effective products for the protection of the works and for the subsequent cleaning from vandalism, without modifying the aesthetic and chromatic aspect of the works.