UCL Centre for languages & international education (CLIE)


Public Art in London: Creativity, Criminality and Capital in the City

Key Information

Module code
Taught during
Session Two
Module leader
Dr Rafael Schacter
None. Standard UCL Summer entry criteria apply.
Assessment method
Presentation (25%), Essay (75%)
Download syllabus (PDF)

Module overview

London is one of the world’s major art capitals, famous in particular for its diverse and distinguished public art. From the low-brow independence of street art and graffiti to the high-brow dominance of commissioned art in public space, the city is filled with visual and material culture that works not just to beautify, but to both transform and reaffirm cultural norms, to empower and immobilize its associated publics.

Exploring London’s public art in order to understand the past, present, and future of the city itself, Public Art in London will examine this site as a place of communication and contestation, transmission and transformation, investigating the social, political and economic debates which these artworks implicitly intersect with and overtly investigate: It will thus enable students to critically explore both the city and the street and to discern not only what public art means, but what it does.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Have cultivated a critical understanding of academic approaches to place, performance, and participation
  • Have obtained an an awareness of current developments in both public, independent, and contemporary art
  • Have developed an insider knowledge of both London as well as urban locations worldwide
  • Have expanded their critical engagement through the application of theoretically informed concepts
  • Have analysed and interpreted different approaches to research questions and demonstrated independence of mind and thought

Module prerequisites

This is a level one module (equivalent to first year undergraduate). No prior subject knowledge is required to study this module but students are expected to have a keen interest in the subject area.

Module hours

Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.


  • 10-minute presentation (25%)
  • 1,500-2,000 word essay (75%)

Module leader

Rafael Schacter (b. London, 1980) is an anthropologist, author, and curator, working on issues related to public art, global art, and socially engaged art practice. Presently a Lecturer in Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London, Rafael received his PhD from UCL in 2011 and was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the same institution from 2014-2017.
Rafael has been conducting research on graffiti and street art for over ten years and has written three books within this field; the award-winning World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti (2013), published with Yale University Press; Ornament and Order (2014), published with Routledge; and his recently completed third book, Street to Studio, published in July 2018 with Lund Humphries.
Rafael has also worked on numerous exhibitions; co-curating the groundbreaking Street Art show at the Tate Modern in 2008; the exhibitions Mapping the City (2015) and Venturing Beyond (2016) at Somerset House, London; Crossing B

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