Richard Hambleton: The Godfather Of Street Art

Nicknamed the “Godfather of street art”, the late Richard Hambleton was born in Vancouver in 1952 and is best known for his sinister shadowman silhouettes daubed on buildings in New York. Hambleton studied at the Vancouver School of Art and began his striking “Image Mass Murder” series in 1976, taking influence from the chalk outlines drawn by the police at murder scenes.

Hambleton created these “crime scenes” in 15 major US and Canadian cities, working with volunteers who would pose as murder victims and using red paint and graphic forms to unsettle the viewer. Unlike traditional street tags, Hambleton’s work invited pedestrians to pause and ponder the meaning behind his work rather than serving up provocative messages or creating colourful murals.

In 1979 Hambleton permanently settled in New York and began to work in his studio rather than directly on the streets. During the 1980s art boom he enjoyed significant success and was considered part of the influential group which also included Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Today Hambleton’s works grace top galleries and museums across the world including the Brooklyn Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Although until now Hambleton has lagged behind contemporaries like Basquiat, his work is now receiving the recognition it deserves. The recent sale of “Opening” (1983) which beat its €7,000 low estimate by over 20 times at Blindarte in Milan, with a closing price of €150,000.

This is not an isolated event; over the past couple of years the value of his work has shot up from a couple of thousand dollars to 6 figures. The current record price for a Hambleton work is for “As the world burns” which sold at Artcurial in 2018 for $553,332. The future looks very bright indeed for those who own or are able to obtain Hambleton pieces before prices climb even higher.

Red8 Gallery currently has a number of sought-after Hambleton works available including the iconic “tr” (2014), “Stop Sign” (2018), and “Shadowcat” (1999). These striking shadowman silhouettes are at once mysterious and ominous, hinting at the dark secrets hidden by the anonymity of the gritty streets of his former Lower East Side home.