Street art in the age of coronavirus

Over the last few months, poignant street art tackling the topic of Covid-19 has sprung up across the world. These distinctive works address the impact of the virus in a variety of artistic, educational and political ways.

Street artists have quickly repurposed their talents to show their gratitude to the international health services on the front line of the fight against coronavirus, with some murals spanning huge walls for all to see.

Prolific artist Rachel List has covered Pontefract in West Yorkshire with superhero-themed artworks that give thanks to the UK’s National Health Service. “I think people just want to show their appreciation for the NHS,” remarked List. “And hopefully, I have, in some small way allowed that message to travel.” Similar graffiti has appeared in Warsaw, Poland, like the enormous piece spanning an apartment block that depicts Superman paying his respects to Polish healthcare workers with the slogan “Not All Heroes Wear Capes.”

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and washing hands with soap have also proved popular subjects to represent for both artistic and educational purposes.

In London, artist Lionel Stanhope is adorning public walls with updated Old Master paintings for the coronavirus era. His topical version of Caravaggio’s (1571-1610) ‘Supper at Emmaus’ now shows Jesus wearing surgical gloves, and his adaption of ‘Portrait of a Man’ by Jan van Eyck (1422-1441) hides the sitter’s face behind a protective mask.

I need some paid work now … I’m hoping that on Sunday when we hear about the government’s proposals that I might be able to start doing some other work,” admitted Stanhope.

Other street artists have created satirical pieces that comment on the ways society and politicians have responded to the crisis. San Francisco-based artist Red Zapata painted a mural transforming President Donald Trump into a Covid-19 cell in early March. Soon after he had completed the eye-catching painting, the artist became ill with coronavirus symptoms, but was unable to get tested.

Speaking about the inspiration behind his piece, Zapata commented “Trump has been dominating the news and now this thing is taking the forefront and it’s something he cannot belittle and something he has no way to put down and insult. It’s like he’s being taken over by the coronavirus.”

Berlin graffiti artist Eme Freethinker satirised stockpiling as a response to the virus, which has seen many supermarket shelves around the world left bare. His larger than life mural in the Mauerpark public park portrays the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ character Gollum grasping a roll of toilet paper and whispering to it: “my precious!”.

During this worldwide crisis it seems that creativity is indeed flourishing, as artists find new ways to share their work and connect with the public.

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