Street art as we know it today dates back to the 1960s. It emerged in the United States and then spread all over the world. As it owes its origins mainly to counterculture movements such as punk and hip-hop, it is on the one hand characterised by a clear revolutionary message, and on the other hand it is strongly focused on activities in public space, aiming to raise the interest of passers-by in social issues.

In Poland, street art began to develop in the 1980s and 1990s, with the growing popularity of hip-hop culture, which had arrived from overseas. At a time of rapid social changes, it began to be perceived as a vehicle for artistic expression in public space, but also as a form of disseminating discontent and frustration. Graffiti initially triggered negative associations with vandalism and illegal activities, but over time it became a fully-fledged field of art.

Street art is a form of communication between the artist and a mass audience who cannot be classified in any way, whether in terms of social class, age or gender. Street art still arouses much debate; as an artistic phenomenon, it has a particularly interesting socio-political aspect. Since the 1990s, it has been a reflection of the public mood. As the years go by, the contents appearing in public space change. New events provoke the emergence of works inspired by them, while old works become a vivid record of the history of social changes.

Presenting an exhibition dedicated to street art in a museum, i.e. transferring it from urban space to the white cube, is a challenge – especially due to the ephemeral nature of artists’ activities. Marcin Kosiorek, who has been involved in the development of graffiti in Poland for many years, both as its creator and observer, gives us a chance to take part in this project.

The exhibition It Really Happened – Except for What I Made Up, whose title refers to the artist’s latest album, is not only an opportunity to become familiar with the work of one of the pioneers of street art in Poland, but also to reflect on the role of this art. Does the presence of such works enrich the cityscape? Can street art be a form of social opinion and protest? Should artists have more freedom to express their message? What values can we find in street art works?

Marcin Kosiorek (a.k.a. ISOK) is a musician, member of the JWP group, graffiti artist and pioneer of street art in Poland. He writes lyrics, creates drawings, produces and co-produces music albums. He made his first graffiti in the 1990s. Since then, he has worked in many places around the world (including Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade, Athens), which has contributed to the development of an extremely interesting style, inspired by many cultures. When asked about today’s situation of graffiti and hip-hop culture in Poland, he says that he is a fan of the new school scene, which is characterised by a certain understatement and ambiguity.