Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Rivington Street Tunnel, London, 2000


Rivington Street Tunnel
London, May 2000


Graffiti Art Live and Direct in London
An Illicit Outdoor Gallery Experience


When: May 31, 2000
Where: Rivington Street Tunnel, Shoreditch, London
Credit Photo: Banksyblog

Rivington Street was the first Banksy “exhibition” in London. Banksy produced twelve stencils for the show.
Speaking to a reporter from “The Independent” just beforehand, Banksy said that “on the wall will be my greatest hits.” And indeed he was right….
The opening of the exhibition was set on 31 May 2000. Banksy explains that he had the idea for a show whilst coming out from a pub one evening. Arguing with a friend, they were considering just how easy it would be to hold an exhibition in London without asking anyone’s permission.
Painting a series of stencils from his back catalog, Banksy covered the walls on either side of what is today, the entrance to the nightclub Cargo. Banksy’s street canvas here was a former utility entry that had long since been blocked up.
Banksy describes the incident in the 2001 book Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall.
“A week later we came back to the same tunnel with two buckets of paint and a letter. The letter was a forged invoice from a mickey mouse Arts organization wishing us luck with the “Tunnel Vision mural project”. We hung up some decorator’s signs nicked off a building site and painted the walls white wearing overalls. We got the artwork up in twenty five minutes and held an opening party later that week with beers and some hip hop pumping out the back of a transit van”.

Rivington Street Today

Rivington Street is a great place to find street art in London. In particular, the courtyard of the nightclub Cargo is a “must see” location. Normally open to the public, it contains a number of works by top artists including Banksy.
Cargo itself sits underneath the railway bridge. It was here underneath the archway that Banksy held his first exhibition in London. Look closely and you can even see the framed outline of some white boxes which once contained Banksy stencils from early in his career. Far more relevant nowadays are the pieces from SAM3, Bastardilla and Thierry Noir. Two actual Banksy pieces however do still exist just round the corner in the courtyard.
Banksy’s connection with Rivington Street goes back to when he is first thought to have moved to London around 2000. Indeed it is here where he had his first exhibition in the city. In what amounted to essentially a pop-up show, he described it as a retrospective of his work. Painting a series of stencils from his back catalog, he covered the walls on either side of where the entrance to Cargo is today. What is now the entrance was a former utility entry that had long since been blocked up. He stenciled on that too. The following year Banksy would return to the same venue though this time with a two week exhibition. Cargo itself would become a place he would return to time and again. In fact, two of his pieces can still be seen in the courtyard today.
The first, dating from 2003, is a single layer black and white stencil image that shows a policeman holding a poodle and is very reminiscent of a lot of his work at the time. The image of the copper is something Banksy has returned to a number of times. “My problem with cops is that they just do what they are told. They say ‘sorry mate I’m just doing my job’. All the fucking time.”

Banksy Cargo Murals

The second Banksy piece in the Cargo courtyard is a collaboration with the artist Stylo from the VOP (Visual Orgasm Productions) crew. It shows a version of the HMV logo where the dog, instead of listening to his masters voice on the gramophone is ready to blast it with a bazooka. Stylo has surrounded the piece with an orange letter piece which spells out his name.