For much of the year, the best—and safest—place to see art was on the street. And perhaps more than in any other year, street art offered a real-time distillation of the events shaping our lives.
Across the globe, artwork speaking to the strangeness of the current moment proliferated on empty walls and billboards, immortalizing the need for face masks and social distancing, as well as the sacrifices of essential workers.
Then, as spring gave way to summer, US stores boarded up in response to a wave of Black Lives Matter protests. Artists turned plywood barriers into canvases, creating works that spoke to cries for racial justice.
Local artists transformed the area around Cup Foods in Minneapolis, the site where George Floyd was killed at the hands of police officers, into a mural-covered memorial. (One particular portrait of Floyd painted by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain became a national symbol and was displayed at his funeral—while controversy surrounding the lack of involvement of Black artists reflected larger concerns about who is centered in the art of the racial justice movement.)
Around the world, there were tributes to Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman, to doctors and nurses, and to victims of police violence, as well as messages of hope, strength, and resilience in the face of the global health crisis and ensuing economic downturn.
This art was a reminder that even in times of isolation, none of us is alone. Here are some of the most memorable street artworks of the year—some inspirational and uplifting, some sorrowful, some humorous, some just plain beautiful—from countries around the world.