Kobra: Colors of Liberty

New York City has some of the world’s best street art, attracting artists not just from our 5 boroughs, but from all over the globe. Works of some of the world’s most famous street artists— Banksy, Invader, Crisp, Shepard Fairey, D*Face, ROA, & more— can be found on our walls.

Among them are Eduardo Kobra, from Brazil. Distinctive for his kaleidoscope theme, bold colors and lines, portraits & mash-ups, Kobra is one of the world’s greatest and most prolific muralists.

He has done work in the NYC area before, and some of those remain (a huge Bowie wall in Jersey City, and a Basquiat/Warhol wall in Williamsburg Brooklyn). But this summer, he returned on an ambitious journey to create a huge number of new murals. He and his crew were ubiquitous for months, working on one mural after another in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They started in late July in the East Village with a mural mashing up young and old Michael Jackson. They finally completed in early November, after a whopping 18 murals.

The project was called ‘Colors of Liberty’, and had that theme as a unifying idea across many of the pieces. In an interview, Kobra said “The intention of my artworks is to bring awareness about complex subjects, such as racism, violence, the use of firearms and violence in general and also the cause of immigrants. To reflect on all of this so we can find answers on how to make the world a better place.” He added, regarding his choice of city for this project that, "New York is where street art was born and I was influenced by the artists here... I owe so much of what I have learned to New York."

To help people discover these, I have created a map of all his NYC pieces:

(This map includes one piece— “Fight for Street Art”— from a previous visit of Kobra’s)

How many, if any, have you spotted yet? Do you a favorite?

Come discover some of these new walls on our Lower East Side Street Art Tour!

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Space Invader in NYC: A Guide

Most street art fans are familiar with the work of French artist Invader. Taking his name from an early arcade game (and his style from those early 8-bit graphics), Invader began a global project in 1998 called Space Invaders, affixing tile mosaics to the sides of buildings. Today, his work can be found in large cities in dozens of major countries. He is one of the world's most famous (and still anonymous) street artists.

Invader has visited NYC several times and left behind numerous installations. Many, as happens often, have been removed, vandalized, or stolen. Know someone vandalizing these? Report it! My aim here is simply to create a list of all remaining pieces in NYC (as of mid-2019) that I have personally verified... so that my fellow street art fans can enjoy them. If I am missing any, or if any are gone since I last saw them, please comment below!

I can also provide custom walking tours about these works! Contact me today!

Manhattan:

  1. Lower East Side: On Ludlow St, between E. Houston & Stanton, look across from the Hotel Indigo, for a classic Invader

  2. Lower East Side: Also on Ludlow, between Delancey & Broome, look up on the east side of the street for a crowned Invader.

  3. Lower East Side: On Broome St, between Allen & Eldridge, look above the pizza shop awning for Leonardo of the TMNT.

  4. Lower East Side: On Bowery, between Broome & Delancey, look up on the east side of the street for Michelangelo of the TMNT.

  5. Lower East Side: On the intersection of Kenmare & Mott, look above the doorway for a spray-can piece.

  6. Lower East Side: On Mulberry St, between Grand & Hester, look up on the east side of the street for superhero character.

  7. Lower East Side: On Mulberry St, near Canal, look up for a Little Italy tribute.

  8. Lower East Side: On Bowery, between E. Houston & Stanton, look up on the east side of the street for a drinking Invader.

  9. Lower East Side: On Lafayette St, between Prince & Spring, look up on the east side of the street for a flowery Invader.

  10. Lower East Side: On the west corner of Lafayette & Kenmare, look up for a classic Invader.

  11. Lower East Side: On the south side of Kenmare St, btwn Mott & Elizabeth, look up for a crowned Invader.

  12. Lower East Side: On Orchard St, between Stanton & Rivington, look up on the west side of the street for a soda can.

  13. Lower East Side: On Norfolk St, btwn Houston & Stanton, look on apartment building for a tentacled Invader.

  14. Lower East Side: On Bowery, between Hester & Canal, look up on the fire escapes on the west side of the street, for a strip of Invaders.

  15. Chinatown: On Division & Orchard, look up on the west corner, for Raphael of the TMNT.

  16. Chinatown: On Canal St, btwn Rutgers & Ludlow, look up on the south side of the street for a classic Invader.

  17. East Village: On Avenue A, between E. 9th & E. 8th, look up on the corner for a classic Invader.

  18. East Village: On St Marks Place, look above Crooked Tree for a mosaic of Lou Reed.

  19. East Village: On Avenue A & E. 3rd, look up on the northeast corner for a classic Invader.

  20. East Village: On Bowery & Great Jones St, look up on the southwest corner for a beat-up Invader.

  21. East Village: On Houston & Bowery (to the left of the Bowery Mural), look up for a colorful Invader.

  22. West Village: On 6th Ave & Waverly Place, look above the diner for a burger-chomping Invader.

  23. West Village: On Minetta & Bleecker, look up above the cafe for two classic Invaders

  24. Chelsea: On W. 14th St, between 8th & 9th Aves, look up on the south side of the street for a large Big Apple Invader.

  25. Chelsea: On W. 22nd St, btwn 10th & 11th, look on the south side of the street for a Pac Man ghost-style Invader.

  26. Meatpacking District: On Washington St, between E. 13th & Little W. 12th, look up on the west side, under the Standard hotel, for Buster Bunny

  27. Meatpacking District: On 10th Ave & W. 17th St, look above Artichoke Pizza for Donatello of the TMNT.

  28. Tribeca: On Thompson St, between Broome & Watts, look up, on the west side of the building, for a rainbow Invader.

  29. Hudson Square: At Pier 40, look on the south end of the building for a classic Invader.

  30. Hudson Square: On Varick St, between Downing & Clarkson, look up on the west side of the street for a classic Invader.

  31. Lower Manhattan: On the NE corner of Reade & Greenwich, look up for a classic Invader

  32. Upper East Side: On E 61st St, between 2nd & 3rd Aves, look up above a doorway on the south side of the street, for a key-holding Invader

  33. Upper East Side: On 2nd Ave, between E. 94th & E. 95th, look up on the west side of the street for a flowery Invader.

  34. Williamsburg Bridge: On the pedestrian path of this bridge, closer to Manhattan, just before the FDR Drive, look to the right on the tower. On the arch, there is a small Invader facing west.

Brooklyn:

  1. Bushwick: On Troutman St, between Wyckoff & Irving, keeping looking up on the west side of the street for a tribute to Cost & ENX.

  2. Bushwick: On Gardner St, between Johnson Ave & Randolph St, look up on the west side of the street for Joey Ramone.

  3. Williamsburg: On Bedford Ave, by S 5th St, look up on the NE corner for a beat-up orange Invader.

  4. Williamsburg: On the SE corner of Metropolitan & Wythe, look up for a tribute to NYC graffiti legends Rev & Cost.

  5. Williamsburg: On the SW corner of N. 6th St and Meeker Ave, look up for a spray can Invader.

  6. South Williamsburg: At Broadway, between Keap & Rodney Sts, look above KidSuper for a classic Invader.

  7. Greenpoint: At the corner of Nassau & Kingsland, look above the pizzeria for pizza-munching Invader.

  8. Bed-Stuy: On St. Johns Place, between Utica & Rochester, look up on the south side of the street for a speeding Invader.

Any questions? Please comment below!

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Covering Queens in Art, Top to Bottom

More and more people are discovering that the city's fastest growing art scene isn't in Manhattan... it's in Queens. The waterfront neighborhoods around Long Island City have a growing number of art galleries and co-working spaces. They also an impressive collection of museums: MoMA PS1, the Sculpture Center, The Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, & more. And in the warmer months, you can also stop by the popular LIC Food & Flea festival, and catch the views from the waterfront parks.

But Long Island City (or, LIC) has always been synonymous with street art. The neighborhood once housed the the world's premiere “graffiti Mecca”: 5Pointz... aka, The Institute of Higher Burnin', aka 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center. Artists from all over the world would apply for a chance to paint on this site. The building itself, while huge (200,000-sq-ft/19,000-m2!), was not itself otherwise remarkable. It was simply a privately-owned factory building that the owner had converted inside to rented artist studios, and turned on the outside to a heavily-curated graffiti gallery. (And curated it was: artists would have to submit portfolios/samples for a chance to make their mark on its walls)

Most New Yorkers became familiar with it while riding the 7 train, as the massive complex, and its painted walls, was the first thing one would see as the train came above ground in Queens.

The building in its prime.

The building in its prime.

The building was even featured in TV & movies, such as the climax of the 2013 film, "Now You See Me".

The building was even featured in TV & movies, such as the climax of the 2013 film, "Now You See Me".

Alas, the growing popularity of Long Island City ultimately sealed 5Pointz's fate. The building's owner was made a generous offer for the land by developers, and he sold. After a failed effort by artists to have the building landmarked, it was demolished. A large, luxury residential complex is currently going up where it once stood. Some 5Pointz-era street art on the other end of Davis St is all that remains of the former mecca.

RIP.

RIP.

Today, the NYC street art community has largely splintered, with efforts centered around new areas like Bushwick or the Lower East Side or Welling Court in Astoria.

But one organization is looking to create a new mecca nearby in LIC. Arts Org NYC is a group that has worked on numerous projects. Their main project now is called "Top to Bottom", centered at a huge building at the intersection of 21st St & 43rd Ave, just a 10-minute walk from where 5Pointz once stood. The project was recently spotlighted on The Huffington Post.  They have gathered some very popular street artists to cover their building from, you guessed it, top to bottom with gorgeous and fun murals. “It’s just a beginning,” creative director James P. Quinn said.

I visited the site today, and was so happy to see that street art in LIC is still thriving. It inspired me to do something I've been thinking about for a while... create a tour of Long Island City, focused around its street art scene. That will be added to this site very soon. I love this neighborhood in general, and think it's a great way to introduce people to the very underrated borough of Queens.

Here is a slideshow of some of my photos from today's exploration.

Know anyone interested in this type of tour? Please spread the word!

Serendipity

As professional guides, we often do the same tours several times a week. But by the nature of an ever-changing city, each time is a little different. Different customers have personalities & interests, and can create different energies & directions for each tour. Different days bring something new.

Sometimes, you even get a little extra on a familiar tour. These occasions are a treat for both guide and guest. I had a few such occasions these past few weeks (I must've earned some karma recently).

The first was during a street art tour in Brooklyn I'd been hired to do, earlier this week. I was showing the customers a piece by local street artist David Hollier. Then, from across the street, I saw a woman on a stoop, standing near a man, waving frantically at me. "Do you want to talk to him?", she asked. I didn't understand at first. We walked across the street to hear better what she was saying, when we realized that the man with her was David Hollier. He was generous, spending several minutes with us, explaining his piece, his role in the Bushwick street art community, and his larger ambitions for the future.

For the customers, this was an exciting (and rare) chance to put a face to the art world I was introducing them to.

A piece by David Hollier, Brooklyn in 2014.

A piece by David Hollier, Brooklyn in 2014.

Another occasion was on February 13, the day after Abraham Lincoln's birthday. I was doing my full-day Manhattan tour. As we entered the World Trade Center transportation hub early on, we encountered a group of children, surrounded by photographers, reciting the Gettysburg Address. (I explained to my foreign customers memorizing & reciting this address is a ritual most American school children do)... It turned out that this was a group of fourth-graders from Packer Collegiate Institute on a school trip. It was a delight to watch, and had the whole Oculus buzzing with energy on a chilly morning.

Honest abes

Honest abes

Another serendipitous event occurred during my afternoon tour of Central Park just today. As we walked around the Pond on the lower end of the park, I explained about the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, a 3.5-acre gated aviary preserve, which is the only part of the park not regularly open to the public. As we rounded the corner, we found the gates open. The park was having one of their rare open hours for this quiet haven. The customers, and myself, were delighted to have the opportunity to wander around an unpaved part of Central Park that even most locals have not (yet) set foot in.

I personally find the Central Park tour above others to be one that I enjoy, no matter how many times I do it. Experiencing the park vicariously for the first time through guests is a treat. But special surprises like this make it an even more memorable experience.

(My photos from a previous venture inside the sanctuary here.)

I'm even more excited to see what surprises await in the week (and month!) ahead.

New Tour: Lower East Side Street Art!

I have lots of great things planned this year, including several new tours. I have just added the first: a street art tour through the Lower East Side! This a Manhattan counterpart to my popular street art tour in Brooklyn.

This tour will be a fun one, not only for street art enthusiasts, but also for those who want to explore the historical and eclectic Lower East Side. Availability starts in a couple weeks, but booking is open now. I look forward to seeing your soon!

Street Art

One of the top walking tours I have listed on my site is dedicated to street art. "Street art" is a term, however, that I realize is foreign or vague to many people outside of major urban areas. What defines "street art"? How is it different than graffiti or vandalism? That's subjective, but here's my take, and my thoughts on why I am passionate for it.

To me, the main thing that differentiates street art from graffiti/vandalism is the level of craft. The stereotypical graffiti-- someone's "tag" scribbled with a spraypaint can on a wall-- takes no effort or time. It's the artistic version of a smashed window. True street art takes time & artistry. One other differentiation is, more and more, street art is being legitimized. Many street artists now work with business & buildings owners to gain access to walls/spaces for their art... it is a good exchange: the artist gets a canvas, and the property owners get new eyes on their space.

Take for example this piece I saw in Brooklyn:
 

This meets both of the above criteria: it was done with permission (as part of the community-wide 'Bushwick Collective') and took days to complete. It is a true piece of art... only the canvas here is a wall.

It's really wonderful to wander around a neighborhood like Bushwick and see the new pieces artists have spread around, and to see the joy and attention this art is bring to visitors.

A major project just completed on Manhattan's Lower East Side is the 100 Gates Project, an effort connecting businesses with artists to create murals on their roll-down gates. Much like Bushwick's collective, this was a win for businesses, artists, and the community.


The most famous example in NYC of popular (and sanctioned) street art is the now-defunct 5Pointz project in Queens, NY. Immortalized in pop culture, the owner of large, industrial warehouse let a street art collective use the entire building exterior as a showcase for artists. The regularly-changing art drew visitors from all over the world.
 

(The building was, sadly, sold and demolished a couple of years ago)

Some street art, however, can be both legitimate and anarchic. Some great examples of this are the unsanctioned works of Banksy, who has gained international acclaim for his guerilla art. Also, the Berlin Wall became covered in street art and graffiti by the end (mostly the western side), as Germans expressed their frustrations with the wall through this art. One section of this wall-- and its art!-- is preserved in a midtown Manhattan office plaza. A surprising example of legitimate, but originally unsanctioned, street art is the famous Wall St bull statue. Contrary to popular belief, this famous sculpture was not sanctioned by the city. Italian-born artist Arturo Di Modica spent $360,000 of his own money to create it, as a gift to the people of New York, and installed it without permission in front of the New York Stock Exchange in December 1989. The city planned to remove the 'vandalism', but kept it (and moved it to its long-standing location by Bowling Green) due to popular outcry. And what would the Financial District be without this beloved icon?


Street art is, to me, a living and breathing sign of a city's creative heart. It takes drab walls and squares and adds color to them. It draws you to neighborhoods and communities you might otherwise not have discovered. This is why I am so passionate about it.

I hope that, by offering these tours, I can pass on this passion to visitors... and help them see parts of the city that are vibrant and alive. And, of course, to continue the discussion of how we define this evolving art form.