12/09/2014 11:25 BST | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Urban Art's Northern Star

Martyn Reed is sitting in his office overlooking the harbour in the Norwegian city of Stavanger. He's a long way from his Yorkshire roots and his home city of Leeds, but he has never felt more at home in this oil-rich rainy city of some 120,000 souls in the country's third largest conurbation.


It's not the likeliest location for someone who is art mad, but for the past 14 years Reed has been involved in, and has run, what is now known as the Nuart festival where the city is opened up to one of the biggest street art and music festivals in the world.


It seems no wall is off limits. In the past the control tower at the airport has been hit and this year an oil tanker supply boat was painted by Polish artist M-City.

The event has attracted an A-Z of the most well-known street artists in the world, from Blek le Rat and David Choe to Aiko and Nick Walker.

This year there is some incredibly intricate work from the Iranian duo Icy and Sot, an incredible tunnel with a Nazi Facebook work by Fra. Biancoshok and a giant girl with a roller by Martin Whatson.


So who is Martyn Reed and what's the secret of this burgeoning artistic enterprise? I caught up with him at the launch of this year's festival.

What gave you the idea to set up a festival in Norway?

Nuart was initially the new media art arm of sister festival Numusic, a boutique electronic and digital music festival we set up here in 2000. In 2002 we invited UK activist artist collective Space Hijackers to participate and in 2003 the Barcelona Graffiti Collective Extra Largos joined us. In 2004 I took over the curation and in 2005 decided to focus solely on street art.

Tell me a bit about some of the highlights from Nuart over the past few years. Which artists stand out and why?

There are so many moments and works and events and artists that it's seriously impossible to pinpoint any one thing or artist. I think our in-house artist David Choe is a Caravaggio of our generation, but I'm not sure he'd appreciate the acknowledgement.

What's the reaction of the locals about the street art pieces once they are up?

I hear quite a few nice stories about peoples' relationship to various works. Some get quite attached to certain pieces and I think, generally, they love the fact their streets are brilliantly redecorated every year.

How do you get the general public to agree to donate their walls to artists?

It's strange, the easier it's become to secure walls from the public, the more difficult it's become to gain permission from the city council. Bizarrely, Stavanger is now officially zero tolerance, but fortunately only on council-owned property.

What can we expect from Nuart 2014?

I'm really looking forward to a few of this year's Urban Interventions, most of which I'm sworn to secrecy about. John Fekner being part of Stavanger's cityscape is an ambition I've had for some time so I'm really pleased with that one. Otherwise I think the Nuart Plus series with Juxtapoz, Brooklyn Street Art and the rest of the gang is going to be something special.

Nuart street art tours run every Sunday until October 12 and feature the work of Strok, Tilt, Borondo, John Fekner, Dot Dot Dot plus many more.

Images: Ian Cox