In recent decades, street art in New York City has transitioned from an act of rebellion to a revered art form. Artists from around the world flock to the Big Apple, inspired by its energy, and leave their mark with some of the most creative murals in New York City. As a local continuously awestruck by these murals, I decided to show my appreciation by rounding up this list of the best murals in NYC. Let’s get to it!
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Best Murals in New York City
Table of Contents: Famous New York City Murals
Table of Contents: Interesting Murals in New York City
- Best Murals in New York City
- Where to See the Best Street Art in New York city
- Best NYC Murals (Summary)
- Map of the Best Street Art in New York City
Banksy is a famous (and anonymous) street artist known the world over for his thought-provoking street art. Many of his pieces have sold at auction for more than $1 million. Swinging by 79th and Broadway to see Hammer Boy, one of the the most famous murals in NYC, and a really cool thing to see in the Upper West Side. The piece was created during Banksy’s 2013 visit to NYC and is now protected by plexiglass to prevent vandalism.
Tristan Eaton has created more than 100 murals all across the globe, and in 2013 the Los Angeles-based artists participated in the Little Italy Street Art (LISA) to paint this multicolored rendition of Audrey Hepburn. Found on the main thoroughfare of Little Italy, Mulberry Street, the striking NYC mural is known for stopping passersby by with a vibrant display of color.
We Love NY2
Einstein has never looked happier than in Eduardo Kobra’s beloved mural, We Love NY2. The famous scientist is depicted with his tongue out and spray-painting a building in the Brazilian artist’s signature bold and geometrical technicolor style. Kobra has used the same style to create over 3,000 murals across five continents, including a few more colorful murals in New York City we’ll get to shortly.
Once notoriously known as the “bloody angle” thanks to relentless gang violence, Doyers Street in Chinatown has become a tranquil neighborhood street that’s also home to one of the best murals in NYC. Rice Terraces, created in 2021 by Chilean artist Dasic Fernández in collaboration with NYC’s Department of Transportation Art, helps draw folks into the historic street (also home to NYC’s oldest dim-sum restaurant, Nom Wah Tea Parlor).
I Love NY
Nick Walker created one of the best murals in New York City by alluding to the iconic “I <3 NY” shirts. The British street artist used a recurring character, a “vandal” in a suit and bowler-hat, to spray paint I Love New York onto the back of a parking lot in Chelsea. The same character has appeared in more of Walker’s murals in Albany, Indianapolis, and even across the Atlantic in England and Spain.
2 World Trade Center
The World Trade Center has had a long road in rebuilding after the attacks on September 11th. To increase energy and positivity, the developers hired both new and established street artists to paint murals on the exterior of the construction site 2 World Trade Center.
There isn’t a unifying theme or direction given to the artists, but the murals are engaging and some of the best in New York City. Not to mention, under the shadow of the towering One World Trade Center and Oculus Mall, the murals become even more memorable).
The Braves of 9/11
Although Eduardo Kobra is originally from Brazil, he still beautifully pays tribute to the heroes who lost their lives responding to 9/11. In one of the largest murals in NYC, he presents a firefighter kneeling over the stars of the American flag with the stripes of the flag behind him, and the stripes also double as the Twin Towers. The touching work is Kobra’s rendition of Matthew McDermott’s famous photo of firefighter Mike Bellantoni on September 11, 2001.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
After The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed in September 2020, little time was wasted creating her tribute. A four-story mural by Elle Street Art (in collaboration with Little Italy Street Project) in the East Village tells her life story.
There’s the Statue of The Contemplation of Justice, which sits outside the Supreme Court and the blue behind Ginsburg represents the ceiling in the Library of Congress. There is a faint crown on her head, which alludes to the famous “King of New York” photo of Biggie Smalls (from whom she gets her “Notorious RBG” nickname) and on her left, you’ll see the Brooklyn Bridge, a nod to her childhood borough.
Mt. Rushmore of Art
In his tribute to some of modern art’s biggest players, Eduardo Kobra painted a mural in Chelsea similar to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. He chose to include Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whom spent a considerable amount of time in New York City’s art scene.
Upon further inspection, it’s easy to notice some of the depicted artists’ unique motifs that Kobra decided to add to the mural. There are Keith Haring’s dancing figures and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Pez Dispenser (the dinosaur with the crown).
Black and White
One of the most popular murals in New York City is Black and White, by Eduardo Kobra, which depicts Michael Jackson. In an interview, Kobra mentioned his tribute to Michael Jackson is meant to show the King of Pop’s transformations, including from black to white and from child to adult.
Crack is Wack
Artist: Keith Haring
Address: E. 127 St., 2 Ave., and, Harlem River Dr, New York, NY 10035
Artist Keith Haring was arrested after creating his iconic “Crack Is Wack” mural in 1985, but after news outlets and the community rallied behind his anti-drug activism, he was let off with a small fine. The famous New York City mural is a testament to the stranglehold crack cocaine held on major cities across the U.S. and the frustrations Haring felt after a personal friend became addicted.
The current mural isn’t the original Keith Haring painted because shortly after completion, it was vandalized and later painted over by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Fortunately, the Parks Department commissioner invited him to repaint it in October of 1986, leaving us with one of the most iconic murals in New York City.
Near the High Line, a popular NYC park, is Tolerance, a riveting depiction of two universal icons of peace. Kobra’s portrayal of Gandhi and Mother Teresa represent the melting pot that is NYC. In this city people of different ethnicity, colors, and religions come together and begin to show that we’re really not that different from one another, and Kobra’s message comes across in the inspiring NYC mural.
One of the best New York City murals pays homage to the Bed-Stuy-born rapper Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G. in his home borough of Brooklyn.
Stylized as the South American Revolutionary Che Guevara, Biggie looms over South Portland Street in a building dubbed the Brooklyn Love Building. On the side of the building that faces Fulton Street there are some of Wallace’s most famous lyrics sprawled across its facade, “spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way” from where the building gets its name.
Rotating Murals at the High Line
The High Line is a park built over elevated railroad tracks, and every year, the park commissions several works of art along its route. Some of the best new murals in New York City can be found where the High Line and 22nd Street intersect; each mural is generally up for about a year before being swapped.
Currently on display is a piece called Thank You Darling by Dutch and American artist Lily van der Stokker. The mural, full of pastel colors, features a message by van der Stokker both to passersby and herself, similar to the positive affirmations we all need from time to time.
Bowery Graffiti Wall
The Bowery Graffiti Wall, a globally recognized canvas, attracts street artists from all around the globe. Its path to greatness was paved when Keith Haring painted one of the most acclaimed murals in New York City on it in 1982. Despite being overlooked for a few decades, the Bowery Wall regained its fame in 2008 when Goldman Properties started commissioning murals.
Since then it has brought some of the best murals in NYC, with a new piece going up every year or so. Featuring powerful and moving works, the Bowery Wall has served as host to some of the most famous street artists. The likes of Shephard Fairey, Ron English and Banksy have all had their art displayed.
Currently on display is a collage of 30 portraits by Japanese artist Tomokazu Matsuyama.
Where to See the Best Street Art in New York city
Williamsburg: The lively neighborhood has long been home to artists and the streets reflect it. Always at the forefront of ingenuity the area comes alive with character and color.
Chelsea: Known as NYC’s art district, Chelsea has been quickly growing and new murals are popping up around the neighborhood. You’ll find a cluster of them around the High Line, a popular park.
East Harlem: Also known as “El Barrio” this community is historically Hispanic. The streets showcase the vibrancy of its residents, and frequent motifs revolve around the neighborhood’s Latin roots.
Best NYC Murals (Summary)
In sum, these are the best murals in New York City:
- Hammer Boy by Banksy
- Tolerance by Eduardo Kobra
- Bowery Graffiti Wall
- The High Line
- Comandante Biggie
- Mt. Rushmore of Art by Eduardo Kobra
- Crack is Wack by Keith Haring
- Black and White by Eduardo Kobra
- We Love NY2 by Eduardo Kobra
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Elle
- The Braves of 9/11 by Eduardo Kobra
- Rice Terraces by Dasic Fernández
- 2 World Trade Center
- I Love NY by Nick Walker
- Audrey Hepburn by Tristan Eaton
Frequently Asked Questions
The most famous wall in New York is arguably the Bowery Mural, renowned for its ever-changing display of large-scale street art by prominent artists from around the world.
The best street art in NYC can be found in neighborhoods like Chelsea, Williamsburg, and the Lower East Side, where vibrant murals adorn building facades and alleyways, showcasing the creativity and diversity of the city’s urban art scene.
The most famous mural in NYC is arguably “The Bowery Mural,” a renowned outdoor art space featuring rotating works by prominent artists, situated on the corner of Houston Street and Bowery in Manhattan.
Map of the Best Street Art in New York City
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And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the 15 best murals in New York City! I hope you enjoyed the post!