Is it street art or advertising?

A pair of artists using blasts of color from aerosol spray paint cans began working on a new mural this week at the corner of Lemoyne Street and Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.  Using photographs taped to the brick wall as a guide, they meticulously recreated  the photo’s highlights, colors and shapes into a street-art style image.  The subject of their mural? A bronze and brawny Lexus. The luxury vehicle  replaced  a mural that served as a promotion related to Walt Disney.  This Echo Park wall facing a busy intersection  is an examples of the marriage of street art and advertising,  with major corporations and brands taking advantage of the popularity of a guerrila art form.

But are these street-smart  murals an expression of creativity or just illegal signage?

The two artists painting the Lexus said they could not provide details of the corporate-sponsored artwork. They could not say whether the work had been granted a permit by the city as a legal mural or sign.

Another mural, created by a firm called  ICU Art,  a block east at Sunset Boulevard and Logan Street has also served as a platform for promotion. A person at ICU Art declined to comment on the record but the firm’s website said its crews of artists paint corporate as well as community murals.

Experts in alternative or guerrilla marketing say street art murals have proven an effective advertising tool.  Alt Terrain, which assist ad agencies on guerrilla marketing, says on its website:

“Street Mural blends creative street art with brand advertising through the implementation of hand-painted, one-of-a-kind, permitted, street-level outdoor advertising murals. ALT TERRAIN and notable street artists assist agencies in creating unique art-advertising outdoor painted billboard initiatives that are respected, talked about, and become part of the local culture.”

(There is no indication that Alt Terrain was involved in the Echo Park murals.)

In the case of the Echo Park murals, they have certainly attracted attention but they are most not likely permitted as either murals or signage, said David Lara with the city’s Building and Safety Department.

“If it shows any type of commercialized ad, it’s definitely not permitted,” he said.

Photo by Echo Park resident


  1. Worth finding out if business is behind it. Charge them a premium fee for removal. All for artists making money, it’s a slippery slope if businesses assimilates itself into the purview of street art.

  2. I noticed that ICU Art ad last weekend and wondered the same thing…

  3. “this gothic cathedral has a pretty nice triptych. I wonder why there are bolts of silk everywhere in the painting though”
    “oh that is because the silk merchants guild paid for the painting.”

  4. Even though I am a fan of this brand, I do find it off putting. Far better than seeing bad art or tagging. In a clean world I’d rather see nothing or have the entire building be a work of art. Something more substantial and or meaningful, inspiring.

  5. The ICU Art mural is TERRIBLE.

  6. This is clearly advertising! With a budget to come up with the concept, paint it on a building and further pay the person who owns the building to advertise a given product or service, it’s really no different than slapping up a billboard. The only real difference is in the application of the ad. I’m waiting for it to get tagged or messed with in some way as a bit of backlash against people who think this is “street art.” Street art is subversive by nature and hopefully carries with it a bit of commentary on the larger society in which we live. Yes, there’s a ton of bad street art and even more bad advertising for things a lot of us don’t need or care about. At best, the advertising is some kind of recognition of economic development in our community that warrants attention from companies that may make positive investments in our neighborhood. At worst, it’s just another image trying to goad us into buying more schlock.

  7. In a weird way I kind of like it…imagine if all the ads in the neighborhood were hand painted by ‘street’ artists… sort of the opposite of certain neighborhoods that enforce all signage to be carved out of wood

  8. There is a profound difference between art that is intended to stimulate a kind of dialogue between the viewer and the artwork and art that is intended to brand and promote a product. And when public space is claimed for branding and promotion, the dialogue that is such an important part of civic life and democracy is completely drowned out.

  9. I HATE tagging, but would somebody PLEASE hurry up and tag that sh*t!

  10. As far as I can tell there is nothing street art about this, and it doesn’t even seem like the creators are trying to pass it off as that. In fact, it’s really only the author who brought up the concept of “street art or advertising?” Is it because it was hand-painted that it has to be compared to street art? Or because they used some spray paint? When I saw them they were painting with brushes. To me this is just an ad, and it’s an ad hand painted by talented artists. It’s great these artists can put their talents to use and get paid for it. And this ad is far better than those posters all over the place. Even though it’s still an ad, at least you can tell some creativity and skill went into making it.


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