Secret Walls: The Art of Competition

I liken it to a visual rap battle; doubles tennis meets painting.

“Secret Walls: The Ultimate Live Paint Battle Experience.”

I was hooked as soon as the concept was explained to me.

“Secret Walls” battles consist of two teams of artists going head-to-head, armed with nothing, but their imagination and paint, creating awe-inspiring masterpieces on a blank canvas in front of a live audience. With a time limit of 90 minutes, these artists are challenged to transform ordinary walls into extraordinary works of art.

Guest judges and crowd reaction determine the winning side.

Secret Walls represents the fusion of art, entertainment, sports, and the gaming world. It celebrates the power of artistic expression, collaboration, and the thrill of creation.

Secret Walls founder Terry Guy came up with the idea following university in his home country of England around 2000 after attending a “b-boy” breakdancing party. Graffiti ringed the “arena.” Having grown up outside the city, he’d only previously seen graffiti in American movies.

This was pre-Wynwood Walls, pre-Banksy, street art was still thought of mostly as graffiti – illegal.

An idea was sparked to synthesize the two – competition and art. The first of what would become thousands of Secret Walls “art battles” around the world was held in East London in 2006.

“We wanted to create a platform where artists could showcase their skills in a dynamic, live environment, much like a sports event,” Guy said. “It’s about bringing art to the forefront and engaging communities in a way that’s both exciting and accessible.”

Artists are selected based on their talent, creativity, and ability to engage with an audience.

“We look for individuals who not only have exceptional skills. but also bring a unique voice and perspective to their work,” Guy explained. “Our selection process involves scouting local talent, recommendations from our network, and open calls where artists can submit their portfolios via our website.”

Audiences are taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as they witness the artists’ skill, spontaneity, and passion. Crowd members actively engage in the battles, cheering for their favorite artists and becoming an integral part of the creative process.

“Crowd reactions play a significant role in influencing the artworks. The energy and feedback from the audience in real time can inspire and drive the artists, pushing them to experiment and take creative risks,” Guy said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship where the artists feed off the crowd’s energy, creating a dynamic and interactive experience. My favorite moments are when artists use the SW platform to visually battle, researching their opponent and drawing clever things in the moment that spark the crowd to react.”

With events held worldwide, Secret Walls has become a global phenomenon, attracting established and emerging artists alike. The company recently copyrighted the phrase “The Art of Competition.”  

The concept’s popularity has grown to the extent that it has now branched off into multiple artforms.

“Originally, this was mainly graffiti and street artists, but as we evolved and travelled the world, the event started to attract all kinds of creative disciplines and backgrounds. Artists compete in various disciplines, including graffiti, illustration, fine art, and digital art,” Guy said. “Each discipline brings its own set of challenges and opportunities, allowing artists to showcase their versatility and creativity. The competition often involves a mix of styles and mediums, reflecting the diverse nature of today’s contemporary art.”

Secret Walls provides a platform for diverse talents to showcase their skills, gain recognition, and connect with a vibrant community of art enthusiasts.

The finished artworks sometimes become a part of Secret Walls gallery collection or are auctioned off, with proceeds supporting artists, future events, or local charities. Select pieces are also displayed in public or private spaces to engage the broader community, ensuring that the art lives on beyond the event.

Artist Wotto with workshop attendees after leading a skateboard customization workshop with Secret Walls X POSCA.
Artist Wotto with workshop attendees after leading a skateboard customization workshop with Secret Walls X POSCA. (Credit Emmett Methven)

In addition to the live competitions, Secret Walls hosts “Secret Walls Academy” art instruction workshops in local communities where the event travels.

As for where Secret Walls is heading next and your opportunity to participate, stay tuned.

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