From Galleries to Graffiti: Comparing Pop Art & Street Art | By Kerwin Blog

From Galleries to Graffiti: Comparing Pop Art & Street Art

Exploring the distinctive styles, characteristics and similarities of these two iconic art movements

In the world of art, two captivating movements have made a lasting impact: Pop Art and Street Art. Originating in different eras and inspired by a diverse range of influences – with distinctly different aesthetic appeals – these art forms have both broken traditional boundaries to become a part of our modern culture.

But while the artistic styles of Pop Art and Street Art are noticeably different in many ways, they do share many similarities – with Pop Art even influencing the development of the Street Art movement (more about this in my blog post here).

Pop Art thrives in galleries, blending commentary on mass culture and consumerism with fine art. Meanwhile, Street Art echoes urban life’s rhythms, urging change and igniting conversations within public spaces. Both offer distinct contexts for engagement, mirroring diverse facets of our culture.

As a UK pop artist myself – whose style is sometimes labelled (inaccurately) as ‘Street Art’ – this article takes a journey into the realms of Pop Art and Street Art. Below, I compare and contrast their key features and highlight their significance.

Origins and Historical Context of These Two Art Movements

Before exploring their differences, it’s important to have some understand of these two art styles and movements. You can learn more about Pop Art in particular in my dedicated blog section here.

Pop Art thrives in galleries, blending commentary on mass culture and consumerism with fine art. Meanwhile, Street Art echoes urban life’s rhythms, urging change and igniting conversations within public spaces. Both offer distinct contexts for engagement, mirroring diverse facets of our culture.

Pop Art

Emerging during the 1950s and 1960s, Pop Art found its roots in a transformative era defined by consumerism and the emergence of mass media. Artists from this movement sought to mirror the everyday world by integrating elements of advertising, product packaging, and popular imagery into their work.

Key Pop artists – who both heavily influenced my own range of By Kerwin music icon portrait paintings – include Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Explore more about Pop Art’s origins and early pioneers here.

Andy Warhol Pop Art

Street Art

Bursting onto the scene as urban expression in the latter part of the 20th century, Street Art brought a raw vitality to the artistic landscape. Heavily tied to graffiti culture, this movement used public spaces as its canvas, speaking to the life, struggles, and aspirations of the streets.

Banksy is one of the leading all-time figures of the Street Art movement – read about his style and technique here. Learn more about how Street Art evolved from simple graffiti in my blog post here.


While Pop Art drew inspiration from the visual language of consumer culture, Street Art drew from the immediacy of the streets themselves. Pop Art was often a reflection of the post-war economic boom, while Street Art often echoed the voices of marginalised communities and responded to societal issues.

These movements, born from distinct influences, set out on separate trajectories that would shape the art world for years to come. I’ve written about what exactly inspired the Pop Art movement here.

Follow Your Dreams by Banksy
Banksy’s Street Art often has the same sense of humour as Pop Art

As well as exploring the similarities between Pop Art and Street Art, read about 7 key differences between these art styles in my related blog post here.

Artistic Techniques and Mediums

Pop Art and Street Art use very different approaches to creating their art. A brief summary of both is below. I’ve written an in-depth blog post about 11 key techniques used to create Pop Art here.

Pop Art

The artistic toolbox of Pop Art brims with vivid hues, embracing bold colours that electrify the canvas and grab attention. This movement champions the use of commercial imagery sourced from advertisements, comic books, and even mundane household items.

Repetition is a key technique, often employed to magnify the impact of the chosen image, emphasising the omnipresence of consumer culture in daily life.

Street Art

Street Art is a canvas as diverse as the urban landscape itself. Artists navigate a range of mediums, with spray paint reigning supreme for its speed and vibrancy. Stencils allow for intricate detailing, while wheat-paste enables large-scale, paste-up artworks.

Murals, with their grandeur, transform entire walls into storytellers. Street Art thrives on adapting to the environment, making use of the grit and texture of urban surfaces to convey its messages.

Learn more about 7 of Street Art’s key techniques here.

Distinct Visual Styles

The artistic techniques and mediums chosen by each movement contribute inherently to their visual distinctiveness. Pop Art’s bold colours and appropriation of mass-produced images create a striking contrast that challenges traditional notions of artistic exclusivity.

Street Art, on the other hand, revels in its spontaneity and connection to the pulse of the streets. The interplay between mediums and techniques in both movements gives birth to the unique aesthetics that captivate art enthusiasts and urban wanderers alike.

There are many ways in which Pop Art – originating in the 1950s and 1960s – inspired the Street Art movement beginning in the 1970s. Explore these here.

Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein helped pioneer Pop Art’s style. How did this later influence Street Art?

Themes and Subjects

Now we have an understanding of the different techniques and mediums to create both Pop Art and Street Art, what exactly inspires their choice of subject matter?

Pop Art

Rooted in the zeitgeist of consumerism, Pop Art celebrates the ordinary and the iconic alike. It’s a mirror reflecting the allure of consumer products and the pervasive nature of mass media.

This movement doesn’t merely depict celebrity culture and everyday objects; it elevates them to the status of art, offering a playful yet critical commentary on modern society’s obsession with materialism.

Learn more about what inspired the Pop Art movement in my blog post on this topic.

Andy Warhol Pop Art
Consumerism was a big theme for Pop Art

Street Art

Embracing the streets as its canvas, Street Art becomes a powerful platform for social dialogue. Its themes delve into the heart of societal issues. Key themes include political unrest, inequality, or environmental concerns.

Street Art transforms walls into visual manifestos, advocating for change, and giving voice to the marginalised. Community engagement is a hallmark; the art isn’t confined to museums but becomes an integral part of daily urban life, sparking conversations and inspiring action.

Banksy’s environmental or political graffiti pieces are testament to this – learn more about these here.

Banksy's Flower Thrower
Street Artist, such as Banksy, tend to focus more on societal issues rather than solely consumerism

Diverse Societal Portraits

Pop Art and Street Art, though distinct, both mirror and challenge societal norms. Pop Art lays bare the allure of consumer culture, while Street Art confronts viewers with urgent calls for change.

The subjects they choose – celebrities and products in Pop Art, and activism and marginalised voices in Street Art – reveal their contrasting focuses. Through their subjects, each movement crafts a unique narrative about the world they inhabit, embodying the diverse facets of human experience.

Context and Presentation

Just where can we typically expect to find Pop Art and Street Art?

Pop Art

Pop Art dances on the fine line between artistic exclusivity and mass culture. Often exhibited within the hallowed halls of galleries and museums, these pieces challenge the conventional divide between what’s deemed “high art” and what’s considered popular.

This context prompts viewers to ponder the tension between artistic intention and commercial consumption, inviting contemplation on the intertwining of art with the everyday.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibits his Jackson Pollock-inspired artwork at Norwich School's Crypt Gallery, March-February 2022 | By Kerwin
My own ‘By Kerwin’ Pop Art is exhibited in galleries and fine art venues. Street Art firmly belongs in urban landscapes.

Street Art

The cityscape itself becomes the canvas for Street Art’s raw and unfiltered expression. The bustling streets, quiet alleys, and forgotten corners host these artworks, transforming urban landscapes into open-air galleries.

The context of public spaces not only democratises art but also confronts passersby unexpectedly, igniting conversations and sometimes even controversy.

The fleeting nature of Street Art due to weather, vandalism, or urban development adds an ephemeral quality, urging viewers to engage with the present moment and the ever-changing city narrative. Explore more about Street Art’s unique interaction with its environment here.

Many cities around the world employ colourful Street Art as a method of attracting visitors back into cities following pandemic lockdowns and a shift to online behaviours

Influence on Interaction

The setting in which art is encountered inherently shapes how it’s perceived. Pop Art’s presentation within typically formal institutions prompts contemplation, often blurring the boundary between mass-produced imagery and fine art.

Street Art’s context fosters immediate and unfiltered interactions, enhancing the connection between the viewer and the artwork.

The juxtaposition of these settings reflects the contrasting purposes of the movements: Pop Art’s exploration of culture and commodification, and Street Art’s engagement with societal discourse in the heart of the public sphere.


In the course of artistic exploration, the juxtaposition of Pop Art and Street Art represents an interesting duality between two distinct art styles. Although distinguishably different, Pop Art and Street bear many similarities – with the former influencing the emergence of the latter – and therefore making for an interesting comparison.

Pop Art, often showcased within the refined confines of galleries, blurs the lines between mass culture and artistic innovation. It beckons us to ponder the interplay of consumerism and creativity, challenging preconceived notions of value.

Pop Art often has a more refined, graphic design style to it than raw, graffiti-style Street Art

Conversely, Street Art thrives in the untamed urban expanse of city streets, creating a dialogue that resonates with the pulse of everyday life. Street Art confronts, questions, and galvanises viewers; inviting us to embrace the transitory nature of existence and the power of public space.

As we traverse this artistic odyssey, Pop Art and Street Art stand not merely as creative movements, but as windows into the dynamic interplay of society, expression, and interpretation.

What is your favourite style out of Pop Art and Street Art? Explore my own range of ‘By Kerwin’ Pop Art music icon portrait paintings and prints in my online shop

As well as exploring the similarities between Pop Art and Street Art, read about 7 key differences between these art styles in my related blog post here.

Explore my blog post about how graffiti art evolved into more intricate street art here. You can also explore my dedicated blog section on Pop Art here.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibiting his pop art, Jackson Pollock-inspired music paintings and prints at The Other Art Fair London, October 2021 | By Kerwin

My own range of Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic paintings can be viewed at – the originals and prints of these are available to purchase, with worldwide delivery. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

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