Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Street Art Tour with Levy's Unique New York


...the one in which we go off the beaten track...and stumble across a 72-room mansion....


Graffiti.

Street art.

Urban landscaping.

Call it what you want - like it (or not) if you will - but street art is pretty cool.

Don't get me wrong - we like the stuff you see in museums. But we also like the edgier stuff...the pieces that you see on the streets. Not to mention, Daughter is a HUGE, HUGE artist - she lives and breathes art, so I thought a graffiti tour would be super-duper cool. Maybe she'd even be inspired for some of her own drawing later....

So, I was thrilled when I discovered a walking tour that would showcase street art.... A company called Levy's Unique New York offers a tour called "Graffiti to Galleries: Street Art in NYC." The company is rated #19 out of 413 activities on TripAdvisor - which led me to go ahead and make a reservation for a three-hour tour on Saturday afternoon, June 22nd. For three hours, the cost of the tour was $250...a little steep, but because this was truly a "unique" experience, I went ahead and splurged.

We were to meet our guide at the intersection of Houston Street and Bowery at 3:00 pm. Fortunately for us, our previous tour that day, the Food Truck and Cart Walking Tour, had ended about 3-4 blocks away from this area. I wish I could say I was SUCH an amazing tour planner that I planned this on purpose - but honestly, I'm not THAT good. It was just pure amazing good luck that once we said goodbye to Josh, we only had a short walk over to Houston and Bowery.

When we arrived at this intersection, there was NO doubt where we would be meeting our guide...as in front of us was the famous "Houston and Bowery Graffiti Mural Wall":



This giant, concrete slab has been hosting various pieces unofficially for over 30 years, but officially since 2008. The current piece, featuring Popeye, was done by a very popular, Bronx-born graffiti artist named Crash.




NOT my picture, but shows you how large and impressive this piece is!


Soon, our guide, Jonathon, showed up...and he immediately took us on a whirlwind tour of the street art culture...where we learned about the various artists, their styles and how to recognize them, as well as understanding the difference between tagging, throw-ups, bombing, murals and wheat-pasting.

To try and show you everything that we saw that afternoon would be...overwhelming. Suffice to say, we walked...and we walked...and we walked...seeing such things as:









It was pretty much a college-level lesson taking place on the streets of Manhattan. I seriously thought we should get a diploma at the end of the tour - that's how thorough Jonathon was. Here, Jonathon's teaching us how to recognize the various styles - and signatures - of the artists:



There were a few hidden gems on our tour...

Take a look at this building...which looks abandoned, as it's covered with graffiti:


Located at 190 Bowery...Google it.


You'd probably never guess that this is a 72-room mansion, valued at $40 million...and that a famous photographer lives there with his family....! I'm sure he's probably used to people standing outside his private residence for a photo op:



Or check out this, which had nothing to do with street art, but was something we passed and I thought it was super cool:



It's the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and I thought the architecture was amazing...I especially loved the red rose on the exterior.

People probably walk over these spots on the sidewalk every day - because that's what they looked like - random spots...but look closer:


A self-portrait of the artist....


Our tour took us down some back alleys - way off the beaten track - but surprisingly pretty:



One such alley led to some pretty cool stairs - the top of which had a pretty cool tiny art gallery:



By now, it was about 5:30 pm...and we were supposed to tour until 6:00 pm.

However...I was dead.

Well.

My feet were, anyway.

Seriously...my feet were SO sore at this point that every step I took felt like the Death March...I was almost in tears, if that tells you how bad it was.

We enjoyed Jonathon, but it seemed as if we were spending more time on "tiny" pieces of art - such as stickers - rather than the big, sweeping murals we were hoping for. I can't blame Jonathon on this - he had grand plans to take us to Brooklyn - or Chelsea - to see the big stuff, but I was being a whiny spoilsport - due to my feet - and didn't really want to travel great distances. This was totally my fault for being a doofus and scheduling THREE back-to-back walking tours on the same day.

With tears in my eyes, and agony all over my face, I finally had to beg off the tour from Jonathon...and bless his heart, he immediately understood. He even took the time to walk us to the nearest Subway station, where he taught us how to purchase a Metro Card, run it through the turnstiles, and get us sent back in the right direction.


What an angel...here he is at the Subway station, saying goodbye to us....


He imparted these words of wisdom to us: "Most New Yorkers go through the streets, looking down at their cell phones...while most tourists go through the streets, looking WAY up high at the tall skyscrapers....be sure to look around you and see the unique art that's right in front of your eyes - at ground level."

We took his words to heart the rest of our trip, and we were tickled when we'd catch other pieces of street art - and even more tickled when we could recognize the artist because of the style....

After we said goodbye to Jonathon, we only waited a few minutes for the next train...and we were SO excited! Our first "solo" foray on the subway:



Once we were aboard, my feet were singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" - it was pure bliss!



So...going on 6:00 pm...and we were only halfway done with The Plan for the day!!!! Seriously - three activities down...three to go.

Would we make it?

Would my feet hold up?

Stay tuned!

Signature

1 comment:

MariK said...

I am loving reading about your NY tour, just as much as I have loved your other stories. You are a great writer - and a great traveller, although I must admit that I would not want to actually participate this particular day of yours in person, as your plan seems a bit overwhelming. I am almost exhausted just reading it. I wonder if you actually made it til the end as per your plan... Glad that you share your experience it, so that we readers can just sit back, relax and enjoy without the trouble of walking for 9 hours or so! Thanks a lot for your blog.