The Northern Capital of Street Art

Manchester street art is the most documented on Instagram in the north with 31,239 Instagram posts to date.

Long known as a city bursting with art expression, Manchester welcomes street art with open arms, as evidenced by the incorporation of the Outhouse project. So with pieces changing so frequently around the city, which street art is receiving the most attention right now? 

TranspennineExpress analysed street art Instagram posts tagged in the north between June and July to uncover the ten pieces that are being shared on Instagram the most right now. Self-titled 'big wall painter' Jim Vision is keeping the Manchester street art scene front and centre in the minds of visitors and enthusiasts alike. His The Tyger mural takes the top spot whilst graffiti artist Akse secures the second, third and fourth spots with Liam Gallagher, Eleven and Ayra Stark.

Further research into the street artists that are Instagrammed the most finds in the north shows that Manchester-based artists Nomad Clan and Akse placed second and fifth, once again highlighting the strength of the Manchester expressionist art scene. The Tyger and Liam Gallagher also make the top five most Instagrammed pieces.

I think it’s the subjects I paint which are the main reason why people love to take pictures of my artwork; the quality of my portraits (likeness and fine details) probably contribute to their 'Instagrammability' - Akse

As the scene is always changing some of the murals on the list have already been repainted - the Tyger is now an advert for the BBC (in fact, the nature of this particular wall is to intersperse adverts and independent commissions, so we’ll likely see a new independent mural after this ad, then an ad to replace that, and so on). The 22 Bees by Qubek, as of the last week of August, is obscured by a pile of bricks whilst the land lies in wait of redevelopment - you can still see it from the right angle but not in its entirety, and soon 102 flats will replace it.  Ayra Stark by Akse is now a monochrome bird by Thisone, and Silence is Golden by Lowdown is now a landscape by tattoo artist Kameeleon Tattoo.

You’ve got to be quick off the mark to capture some of these - but that’s part of the fun.

What about the future of street art? Personally, I think the mural will continue to dominate but as we see more advertorial paintings and the expectation by the public for murals to get bigger and to change frequently then I see a few trends emerging. 

Firstly, for the art to get smaller, a move back to ceramics for instance and demonstrated through the contemporary works of Isaac Cordal. Smaller art allows for a more sustainable scene where the artist can retain their integrity, and whilst this art is often more transient (because it’s easier to steal) this may help with the public understanding of the art form as ephemeral, something artists themselves are accepting of, but the public struggle with a little more - as demonstrated through attempts to preserve works (such as the supposed Banksy on Tib Street, now a grotty perspex sheet of stickers and scum). Sheffield-based artist Phlegm has also experimented with downscaling his artwork, creating intricate works through his carvings into copper, and bringing it to life through sculpture (although he did so on an enormous scale as part of his spectacular show Mausoleum of the Giants). 

Another trend that’s well underway is for the art to move out of the cities. This is for a couple of reasons, firstly ads are more commonplace in the cities, but also there’s a link between gentrification and street art that artists are becoming more conscious of, artists like Axel Void will work in a city but he requires those murals to have just political or social motivation, he fears that developers will identify new ‘hip’ areas through the street art scene and doesn’t want to contribute to this process. Instead, artists are seizing the opportunity to improve suburban and satellite towns through street art campaigns such as Uprising in Rochdale. That’s not to say cities won't continue to be adorned with paintings but I believe these will be less significant in scale, though potentially more politically-driven.

You can explore the street art of Manchester on my walking tour, which also covers the ceramic arts of the 90s (like the Warp and Weft mural), and delves into the modern history of the Northern Quarter and how art helped transform the area during a time of hopeless dereliction.

You can uncover the most Instagrammed street art in the North, with breakdowns and league tables of each city and street artist here.