Or it may be, as Rojo and Harrington contend, that the works entering the market and promoted or positioned as “street art” are not street art at all—the auction records of both KAWS and Banksy are for works painted on canvas, which fall more squarely within Rojo and Harrington’s fine art classification. Atkins maintained a similar point of view, claiming that some works of supposed “street art” on the market are products of a studio practice meant to support that artist’s work in the public realm. “Someone like JR, who’s doing these huge, large-scale installations all very much for the public realm—he also does produce print editions and such,” she said. “And the funds from those go back into fund future public projects.”
And those projects—some sanctioned, some not—bring us back to the central tensions of the category: between aesthetic boundlessness and conceptual narrowness; between private property and public visibility. The only sure rule in the discernment of street art seems to be that its limits are mutable and always being built and rebuilt according to these frictions.