Surprise! 20 Subversive Works of Urban Guerrilla Street Art


It’s all too easy to get stuck in a routine, walking through the city on autopilot without even noticing what’s around you. Urban guerrilla street artists seek to shake things up, force you to take a second look, change your preconceptions about your everyday surroundings. These ten artists use the streets as an untapped setting for personal artwork, call attention to social issues and question what kind of behavior is ‘appropriate’ in elevators, subways and retail stores.

Street Art That Makes You Look Twice by Mark Jenkins





(images via: xmarkjenkinsx)

Ducks made of packing tape, floating in a puddle. A man seemingly putting his head through a concrete wall. The startling contrast of cheerful balloons tied to what looks like a dead body. These are all among the creative urban art installations that come from the mind of street artist Mark Jenkins, who treats public space like one big blank canvas.

Jenkins told art critic Brian Sherwin, “There is opposition, and risk, but I think that just shows that street art is the sort of frontier where the leading edge really does have to chew through the ice. And it’s good for people to remember public space is a battleground, with the government, advertisers and artists all mixing and mashing, and even now the strange cross-pollination taking place as street artists sometimes become brands, and brands camouflaging as street art creating complex hybrids or impersonators.”

Curbside Cabinet Trojan Horse


(image via: Lucas Murgida)

It seemed like an especially lucky curbside find: a nice, modern, brand-new cabinet left on the sidewalk for somebody to claim and take home. But, it wasn’t any ordinary cabinet. Artist Lucas Murgida hid inside and waited until he was taken to a private space to emerge.

Of the project, Murgida said, “Often the city seems to be ours alone to experience and we assume that it is in turn ours for the taking. This sensibility is made evident in the U.S. by the often-quoted phrase, ‘Possession is 9/10 of the law.’ This means that the person who is not in possession of an item must prove that it is rightfully theirs… A person is not sure how to look at the object at first, but will usually fall back on the golden rule of U.S. culture (finders keepers, losers weepers) and claim it to be theirs. I am hoping to subvert the ‘finder’s’ personal space by claiming it to be my own public space.”

Subtle Yet Subersive Art Interventions by SpY




(images via: dornob)

Spanish artist SpY subtly alters ordinary objects in urban environments, sometimes to make a statement and sometimes just for the fun of it. He describes his work as a “playful reappropriation of urban elements”, replicating them or transforming them in his studio and then installing them in the streets. He seeks to break through the automated monotony of everyday urban life and get people to notice things as if for the first time.

An Army of Fake Best Buy Employees


(images via: Improv Everywhere)

Best Buy from ImprovEverywhere on Vimeo.

It was a fairly simple experiment: inserting dozens of people dressed like employees into a Manhattan Best Buy to see what would happen. The group Improv Everywhere gathered volunteers together, asked them to wear khakis and a very specific shade of blue polo shirt, and smuggled cameras inside the store to film the reaction. The ‘agents’ simply spread out in the store and stood around. If customers asked them a question, they answered as best they could. If employees asked what they were doing, they replied, “I’m waiting on a friend.”

As expected, the real Best Buy employees were confused at first… but then they became frightened. Convinced that the prank was some kind of elaborate heist, one frantic employee began shrieking “Thomas Crown Affair! Thomas Crown Affair!” Their hidden camera rig was discovered and the security guard called 911. All because a group of people were wearing blue polo shirts and khakis.

Subway Swing Disguised as a Bag


(images via: Conflux Festival)

Paranoia reigns on New York City subways, but one artist wanted to bring back fun, innocence and laughter. So, flouting the “if you see something, say something” dictate of the Transportation Authority, she created a swing disguised as a bag that can be hooked around the handrail.

“I hope that the innocent amusement of swinging on the subway eclipses the atmosphere of suspicion and insulation that random searches (and the motto “if you see something say something”) produces. May playful engagement in public space provide a plausible alternative to the monotony of routine!”

Trash: Any Color You Like


(images via: anycoloryoulike)

Neon pink with white polka dots certainly help trash bags stand out from their surroundings, highlighting just how many of them there really are in an urban environment. It also provides a pop of bright, fun color in what can otherwise be a dreary cityscape. New York-based artist Adrian Kondratowicz has distributed these biodegradable bags around New York City and in several countries around the world, hoping to raise environmental awareness and beautify urban spaces at the same time.

The Random Lift Button


(image via: arch-os)

Do you always need to know exactly where you’re going? Sometimes, it’s therapeutic to give into chaos and randomness. Chris Speed of Arch-OS created the ‘random lift button’ so you can remove yourself from the system that has placed a premium on time and space, aimlessly wandering so as to enjoy a more complete experience.

Arch-OS explains, “Lifts become a temporal slippage in the experience of a building as a whole, we skip space and avoid people, places and the opportunity to see the ‘whole’. Indeed corridors and stairwells are recognized as the most important social spaces within businesses and many more negotiations and affairs occur between office spaces than within them.”

Trees Transformed into Giant Carrots


(image via: Ads of the World)

With the simple addition of ridged orange containers, six tall and thin trees in Portland were transformed instantly into carrots, luring passers-by to read the stickers – advertising a local farmer’s market – and salivate over the thought of crisp, fresh produce. This installation was a subtle advertisement, but also added a sense of whimsy to an otherwise unremarkable urban street.

Literal ‘Street Art’ by Roadsworth





(images via: Jalopnik)

The street itself is a blank canvas offering virtually unlimited opportunities for artistic expression, whether to communicate, beautify or engage. Street artist Roadsworth takes full advantage of this space, and his work has evolved over the years from anti-car sentiments in his hometown of Montreal to fun, ironic and sometimes thought-provoking imagery.

FILEangels Deliver Kits for Traffic Jam Fun


(images via: Guerilla Innovation)

When you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you tend to sit around, bored and impatient, waiting for the chance to get out. A Dutch group of architects called Artgineering doesn’t see why we shouldn’t relax and have some fun while we’re waiting. The group had motorcycle-riding ‘FILEangels’ distribute ‘FILEkits’ (file is Dutch for traffic jam) containing items like a water pistol, a bible and a condom to bored motorists free of charge. The idea was to turn a negative situation into a positive one, giving motorists a reason to step out of their cars and interact with each other.