If you’ve spent any time in east London in the last decade, the chances are you’ll have walked past an original work by graffiti artist Ben Eine, perhaps without even knowing.
Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, he’s the bloke responsible for the distinctive colourful alphabet lettering on shop shutters along Hackney Road, Brick Lane and Broadway Market (see photo, bottom right).
In fact, his eye-catching typography has transformed streets around the world, including LA, Mexico City, Miami, Paris, Dublin, Tokyo, Stockholm – and his current home in San Francisco. And he’s highly prized these days: recent commissions include Louis Vuitton, Amnesty International and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.But it’s not all been without a credibility hitch or two. Back in 2010, his reputation survived an incident involving the unexpected patronage of the apparently graf-loving Prime Minister, David Cameron. The Tory leader gifted a piece of Eine’s work to President Obama on his first official visit to the White House.
“It’s not the kind of recognition I seek or get every day,” he said at the time, “but Cameron seems quite a positive kind of guy and Obama’s a dude. I would probably have had issues if it had been for Bush.”
Whether he would endorse Cameron five years on is debatable; but of course the publicity inevitably sent his value up a rung or two, with the upshot being that his work is now held in permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles.
Last month he completed a striking new art installation in King’s Cross. Entitled Curiosity, it was commissioned to mark both the completion of publisher Macmillan’s new campus, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland.
“It’s always exciting to be back in London and to collaborate with new people on projects like this one,” he says. “Albert Einstein said curiosity is the key to the creative process, and I totally agree; staying curious and engaged always makes for the greatest adventures in life.”Macmillan has been based in a building situated south of King’s Place and backing the Regent’s Canal for over twenty years, and recently expanded its campus to include three more buildings in the Regent Quarter. And due to many being listed and of architectural interest, this new piece is radically different to Eine’s previous projects.
Instead of spraying an exterior wall as with much of his other graffiti work, the artist has painted onto large acrylic panels which he then installed in a glass-fronted atrium, wrapping the corner of Macmillan’s Printworks building on York Way and Railway Street.
We suggest you go see it for yourself. And word on the street is that he’s rumoured to have secretly completed a new street art work on Hackney Road too. But we couldn’t possibly say any more about that.