Essential Introductions: Your ultimate guide to STIK’s street art

Essential Introductions: Your ultimate guide to STIK's street art

For any lover of UK street art – STIK is an artist that you need to know about. His enigmatic stick/stik figures adorn city streets the world over, providing colour and joy to anyone lucky enough to pass them.

Now a veteran of the UK street art scene, Stik’s artistic career began in a period when he experienced homeless on the capital’s streets. His unofficial, socially conscious murals began in his hometown of Hackney in 2001 – and have only gone from strength to strength since then.

With a focus entrenched in the communities in which he creates his work, Stik’s art strives to capture the importance of personal and social relationships. But who exactly is this artist? Today, we shine a light on the inspiration behind Stik’s art, where you might be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of his work and the current market value for his pieces.

Where did Stik’s style emerge?

Four lines, one circle, one square, two dots – a style born from necessity.

Although incredibly minimal in design, Stik’s work is filled with love and emotion for his local community. It was during a period of homelessness in the early 2000s that the artist began painting his murals.

His style was initially an artistic choice born out of necessity – with a largely monochrome scheme that was quick to create and only required one black spray can and discarded white house paint. This paint was relatively easily found on the streets, discarded by new homeowners flocking to East London at the time. As the artist himself put it: “six lines and two dots was the quickest way to draw a human figure without getting caught.”

As well as art of necessity, Stik’s figures take inspiration from the simplicity and striking nature of Japanese calligraphy. His own figures represent a focus on people and communities first and foremost. During a time when the artist felt invisible to society, it was a way of showing that he was there – living and creating art.

One of his earliest pieces was created on the walls of The Foundry, a vibrant bar and artspace where Stik used to clean the toilets. Fittingly, for an artist that deals with the “small p-political” (issues of gentrification and the changing face of London), the original work was lost (alongside a Banksy mural) when the community building was transformed into a luxury hotel building was transformed into a luxury hotel.

Stik often speaks of the fact that he seeks “permissions” as opposed to “commissions” – with any artwork visible from the street created for free. The way in which the artist seeks community buy-ins (although often not that of local councils!) explains why so much of his work has survived without being painted over.

Where can I find Stik’s art?

Whilst there’s plenty of Stik’s art on the streets of Hackney where he first began working, you can now find his art all over London and further afield. In recent years he has worked in Berlin, New York, Norway and Jordan. In the Big Apple, a particularly notable mural named “Liberty” (in which his stick figure raises an arm of solidarity alongside artists, activists and outsiders) was painted in 2013 in East Village, as well as further murals in Bushwick.

One of Stik’s most famous UK artworks was a 125-foot high mural (one of Britain’s tallest) of a mother and baby painted on the side of Charles Hocking House in West London. This was another building demolished to make way for luxury housing developments (the Acton Gardens development) scheduled for completion in 2020.

Despite working the world over, East London remains the artist’s spiritual home – with the streets of Shoreditch and Hackney the best locations for stik-spotting. His depiction of a muslim woman holding hands with one of his figures is located on the streets of Shoreditch (a work created after the 2010 extremist attack on the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks). The artwork was warmly embraced by the local muslim community and in 2017 was voted the UK’s 17th favourite artwork in a Guardian poll.

Understanding the market for Stik’s artwork

“I had a policy that I never sold any art, and then I did, and it changed. I wrestle to maintain some sort of purity.” – Stik

Whilst Stik is very clear that most of his art belongs on the street, the artist has also released prints and multiples for sale, often for charitable causes. On the rare occasion that he provides permission for a piece of street-art to be sold, proceeds must go directly back to the community.

One of the most recent examples of this was the bronze sculpture “Holding Hands” installed in Hoxton Square. The piece was sold for a record-breaking £287,500 at Christie’s in October 2020, with the money raised given back to Hackney Council to create a series of outdoor art celebrating local artists and the borough’s diverse communities.

As part of this project, Stik agreed to distribute 100,000 prints of this work as a gift to the borough’s residents. In an unpredictable twist however, these prints were targeted by thieves (stolen somewhere along the supply and distribution chain)! Although some arrived with residents, a large amount are still unaccounted for to this day.

Is Stik’s art a good investment?

As with any artistic purchase, buying pieces that you love should be your number one consideration. Afterall, great art provides value every single day to those lucky enough to encounter it.

Despite this, Stik’s artwork has maintained considerable financial value. To give an impression, a series of prints was released with the Big Issue in 2013 (coming free with the £2.50 magazine). In 2020, a single edition of one of these prints can cost upwards of £1,000.

A single Liberty print (blue colourway, edition of 25 – launched in 2013 to coincide with his Liberty graffiti work in East Village) was sold for over £18,000 at Bonhams in June 2020. A full set of all the five colourways had previously topped this however, making a staggering £200,000 at Christies, London in 2019.

In a similar manner, when Stik released 100 editions of “Sleeping Baby” to raise money for Homerton Hospital in East London in 2015, they were priced at £500 each. Just a single colourway from this series can now easily sell for £10,000 or more.

Whether you’re a first-time collector or a seasoned buyer, it’s important to purchase artwork from trusted sources, who can guide you on the condition, authenticity and market value of the piece. At The Art Market Gallery we are proud to represent Stik with a collection of signed and numbered limited editions available for sale. If you’re interested in buying or selling Stik’s art, get in touch with our friendly, expert team who’d be glad to assist.
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