Street art has emerged as a way for cities to revive and rejuvenate neighborhoods; a means for artists to express themselves in public space; a platform for activists to broadcast their messages, and a medium for brands to fly their colours. From Miami to Lisbon, Melbourne, and everywhere in between, the world has become a giant canvas to discover.
MURAL Blog introduces #TravelTuesday, a street art destination content series, where each piece will explore an city’s unique street art culture.
In the world of arts and design, Barcelona is often associated to the geants of modern art that are Miró, Gaudí, Dalí and Picasso. However, only a few years after the explosion of hip hop culture in 1980’s New York City, the Catalans were already masters of the art of graffiti. While in Spain’s second largest city, the MURAL Festival team explored the central boroughs of El Raval, Barri Gòtic and Montjuic to try and make sense of the current local street art scene.
El Pez, Jardin de les Tres Xemineies
What immediately catches the eye of a visitor fresh off the airport is the profusion of small interventions on the city’s public utilities. On mail boxes, electrical equipment and the metro’s aeration outlets, one can find various tags, wheatpastes and random ceramic or metal installations. Mike Francos, from Barcelona StreetStyle Tours, explais that in the late 1990’s, the city council bowed to pressure from the tourism and real estate sectors to make the city more “tourist friendly” and cracked down on graffiti. It now employs teams in charge of painting over any illegal graffiti found on the old stone buildings with the ubiquitous yellow-tan color characteristic of the area. Small artistic interventions are thus a natural adaptation to Barcelona’s bylaws.
Featuring Me Lata, Bl2sa, Francisco de Pajaro and others.
However, Barcelona features some legal painting spots where graffiti writing is allowed and even encouraged. One such space is Jardin de les Treis Xemeneies (Garden of the Three Chimneys), an old industrial space converted into a graffiti-and-skatepark public space. The only limitation there is how long a piece will last before being covered by another artist.
Jardin de les Tres Xemeneies, a colourful skate-park
Numerous prolific artists have built entire careers out of their neighborhoods in Barcelona, which are central to their practice. Thus, when exploring the alleys where the artists reside, one will encounter the same familiar icons over and over: Konair’s popsicles, Me Lata encouraging tin cans, El Pez’s smiley fishes, Francesco de Pajaro’s angry thrash installations, 101’s wheatpastes, El Xupet Negre’ odd pacifiers, etc.
El Xupet Negre (going strong for about 30 years) in a hip Raval thrift shop.
The amount of sunshine and artists have quickly helped define Barcelona’s own street art style. The so-called “Barcelona syle” features a positive vibe and vibrant colours and is featured most prominently on legal painting spots and around train tracks.
Top: Colourful throw-ups on a train. Bottom: El Pez, Khram&Eledu and Uriginal.
Rounding it all up, internationally recognized artists often come to Barcelona to leave their mark. Chief among them is new-yorker legend Keith Haring’s massive AIDS awareness wall at the Museum of Modern Arts (MACBA) dating back to the 1990’s, but a sharp eye will spot works from icons like MissMe (Montréal) or Invader (Paris).
Invader, El Raval
MissMe, La Boqueria
Keith Haring, El Raval
Photos & Text by Julien Gagnon (@fuji_ju)