A Surge in London Graffiti During Lockdown

Oxford Circus Tube Station

During the various restrictions in the UK throughout the assorted levels of lockdown in 2020, graffiti artists have taken the opportunity to target areas that would have been previously too conspicuous to create their controversial art.  This can be seen in Banksy’s work on the interior of a London Underground train carriage ‘If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get’ as well as many other works popping up across London. We have had numerous Banksy works sell with great success at Chiswick Auctions.  In October of last year, Banksy’s ‘Trolleys’ screenprint sold for £28,000. Oxford Circus Tube Station has become the most recent site of this surge of graffiti art in what were public locations prior to the lockdown restrictions.

Banksy’s ‘Trolleys’ screenprint sold for £28,000

Banksy’s ‘Trolleys’ screenprint sold for £28,000 in October 2020

Graffiti artists have covered the surfaces, or ‘bombed’, Oxford Circus Tube Station with paint over the Christmas period.  This would have usually been impossible as the tube station would normally have been heaving with boxing day shoppers, but instead, it was left deserted as London was plunged into Tier 4 lockdown restrictions to combat the Covid-19 cases rampaging across the city.

An array of artwork has gone up in this station, from anarchist symbols to tags, to full pieces.  These tags include those from DDS (Diabolical Dubstars), TVZ (Transit Vandalz), Sane, MTS (a growing South-East London graffiti crew).  DDS also provided throw-ups along with an impressive piece which spells out the full name ‘Diabolical Dubstars’ in a beautiful array of colours.

Teach, a central figure in DDS and one of the few kings of the London Underground is likely to have participated in completing the throw-up and piece mentioned above. Last October Chiswick Auctions sold a gorgeous work on paper by Teach titled ‘All Lines Low’ which was sold for £500.


 ‘All Lines Low’ by Teach sold for £500
‘All Lines Low’ by Teach sold for £500 in October 2020 

Another piece that has gone up reads ‘Grenfell’ with a colourful explosion of lines shooting out from the centre of the lettering as a homage to the victims of Grenfell Tower.  Next to this tribute are messages referencing discontent towards the government as to how the tragedy was handled. These messages along with the anarchist symbols scattered throughout the station send a strong political message, a trend often seen across art, especially in subcultures such as graffiti art which are not fully accepted by the majority of people.


Homage to the victims of Grenfell Tower
Homage to the victims of Grenfell Tower on the Oxford Circus tube stop


The reaction to this recent ‘bombing’ has been met with much controversy, many viewing it as simple vandalism or an ineffective means of trying to translate a political opinion.  However, graffiti can be viewed as a selfless form of art for the people. Graffiti is often viewed as a form of art for the people who cannot or do not want to access galleries. Although, the context of the street is often an integral part of the graffiti itself. Indeed, during the current pandemic, activities have been severely limited but being able to walk the streets and see a variety of colourful artwork can act much like a gallery of discovery in the fresh air.

Many of these graffiti artists are hugely accomplished and not the simple vandals they are often portrayed as.  Teach, for instance, graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 2003 and went on to exhibit his works in museums, galleries and biennales across the globe.

The tags and pieces ‘bombed’ in Oxford Circus Tube Station are currently still burning in place, but it is very likely that soon enough they will be buffed into oblivion or become mere ghosts of their former selves.  It is this temporary nature that is one of the many aspects that make graffiti art so fascinating and exhilarating.

If you would like to consign to our Urban & Contemporary auction on Monday 22 March, please get in touch with Madeleine White.