Kilroy was here: the first viral graffiti in history

Kilroy was here: the first viral graffiti in history

Kilroy was here, and everything began precisely form “here”. With "here" we mean the Second World War, precisely between '44 and '45, the graffiti appeared everywhere and was considered as a real mascot of good wishes for the allies of the US, British and Australian forces.

It is thought that the character with the big nose, also known as "Mr. Chad ", was designed for the first time by cartoonist George Edward “Chat” Chatterton, during the forties, to then be engraved by American and British troops wherever supplies were missing, but often also to defuse tragic events.

Although Chatterton was the first to draw the character, he wasn’t the one who started the slogan. According to several theories, it was James J. Kilroy who wrote for the first time: Kilroy was here. And this is how he joined some of the most important pages in history: Kilroy worked in a Massachusetts shipyard during the Second World War. He was a supervisor of the construction work, and to ensure that his superiors could recognize his work compared to the others, he scribbled with a yellow crayon "Kilroy was here", on every work he supervisioned.

Kilroy was here - WWII Memorial di Washington DC

And it is exactly from here that what is considered today a global artistic movement has begun to develop.

We are in the Paris of the early seventies, where Street Art was a movement based mainly on a protest. Blek le Rat was one of the artists who was part of it and still continues to be part of it today. Banksy himself stated that: "every time I paint something, I find out that Blek le Rat had already done it 20 years ago".

Blek le Rat -  “Taki 183”  at Vertical Gallery

In the same years, in America, graffiti is spreading from which then, in the eighties, urban art will develop, which abandons the simple tag and begins to interact with the public. Only in these years people will begin hearing about artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The first, a thin, lost-looking kid, began drawing with a chalk in the empty advertising spaces in the English subway; the second, the boy from the "City as A School" with the uncontrollable desire to write on any surface he found himself in front of him. Author, along with his friend Al Diaz, of the tag SAMO - Same Old Shit - that was to represent the marijuana that the two used to smoke.

Thanks to all of these artists, and many others aswell, a wave of newborn artists begins to try not to get caught by the police while trying to leave something that, the next day, can leave the passersby astonished by their piece.

It will be Ben Eine, street artist still tied to the study of the letter, to affirm that: "The most famous street artist today is Banksy". The same artist is one of the few to know the identity of Banksy and to have shared with him a trip to Palestine, in which they have realized some of his most significant works.

 Banksy - “Soldier and girl”, Bethlehem, Palestine

The urban artist Risk in the documentary "Saving Banksy", summarizes how much value, for those who took and take part in this movement, its to exercise it as it was born: "I’m a pretty mellow dude,you know. I’ve been shot once, stabbed twice, shot at multiple times. All for the love of graffiti ".

Ben Eine - “Charming”, Laguna Beach