It was surreal for me to return to the Leake Street tunnel after nearly 10 years. The tunnel under Waterloo Station hosted Banksy’s ‘Cans Festival’ in 2008. Today the now ‘designated graffiti area’ continues to be covered by street art, but of a more traditional graffiti genre than that of 10 years ago.
Immediately upon entering the tunnel you are greeted with an intense hit of solvents – artist are here working hard on their latest pieces. The thick layers of paint on the walls suggest that their efforts will only remain for a short time before the next whitewashing.
Deep in the tunnel is a small door with a large gazebo outside, a queue of people wait to enter the arches – our venue for tonight’s events. House of Vans was opened in 2014 after winning a bid to setup a skate park come music venue. Tonight the venue is host to the inaugural Rise Art Prize.
16,000 artists entered from across 5 continents hoping to earn the tile of ‘Global Artist of the Year’. The Rise Art team and an eclectic judging panel of art world celebrities including – Harland Miller, Ben Eine, David Bailey and Gavin Turk, whittled the competition down to just 26.
Patrón Tequila were one of the evenings sponsors, providing a welcome selection of cocktails including Mojitos and Old Fashioneds. Camden Town Brewery were also on hand with their Hells Lager and IPA.
The pop-up gallery space in one of the back arches of the venue displayed all of the night’s finalists. After a studious viewing of the works, I had picked a few of my favourite pieces.
Eight o’clock rolled around and a crowd had gathered in front of the main stage that had two days prior hosted indie rock band – The Vaccines. Rise Art founder Scott Phillips thanked the audience and sponsors before each of the 11 category winners were announced.
Other notable artists included Drawing Award winner Nelson Makamo from South Africa with his grand charcoal portraits. Nelson collected his prize in person having traveled from Johannesburg for the ceremony.
UK Young Artist of the Year winner Eleanor Denton impressed everyone with her hyper realistic portrait. An incredible young talent at under 18 and a worthy victor.
Later into the evening, electronic duo Blue Lab Beats took over the stage for their anticipated (mainly) instrumental set. Their debut album ‘Xover’ is out on March 30th.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to make new friends – it was good to speak with some of the other guests.
It was hard to walk out of House of Vans before the night was over. I’m not sure if anyone made it to the 2 am advertised finish, but I know a few of them would have tried.