Graffiti as a blatant manifestation of identity, as the signature of a territorial claim to power, or simply as a visual expression of adolescent rebellion: there were various motives for the cryptic writing on buildings and other public surfaces in the late 1970s. After emerging in the nocturnal, anonymous urbanity of major American cities, what was called “American writing” arrived around a decade later together with hip hop and the life attitude of those growing up in European cities like London, Paris, Berlin, or Barcelona. Today, the usually sprayed pictures, drawings, and writing have long since become elements of urban identity, and are even considered tourist attractions.

Beginning in 1986, Basel graffiti artist Sigi von Koeding became one of the most important figures in the German-speaking world of graffiti under the pseudonym DARE. As one of the very first sprayers, he had a network of friends across half a continent and organized competitions and exhibitions or urban and street art. He also developed his own style of writing with special 3-D effects. The large-format letters of DARE on public walls and façades were not only an expression of his personality, but also reflected his psyche at the moment of their creation.

When he began painting on canvas, these paintings, in contrast to the works of the expressionists from the early 20th century, were not visual-figurative, but graphic-abstract, self-portraits become word. By perfecting his painting, which now was largely done using the brush, Sigi von Koeding found artistic recognition deep into the contemporary art world, becoming more and more present in the white cubes of art galleries, and was able to select the most interesting jobs from among numerous offers. While some criticized this as a sell out, others celebrated Sigi von Koeding’s success, helping the new genre of Urban Art to finally establish itself and meet with broad public recognition.

When Sigi – DARE – von Koeding died in March 2010 at age 41 from a brain tumour, we lost not only an outstanding artist, but a great communicator, curator, networker, and bridge-builder of ideas who proudly sought to share his success with others, and did so.

This website is dedicated to one of the greats of graffiti and street art. The work of Sigi von Koeding, who still today enjoys the greatest respect of his colleagues, is now presented to a wider audience, and his decisive achievements are presented from various perspectives.

Yvette Amann, Dieter Buchhart