I’m dedicating this post to two big passions in my life – street art and my favourite city, Barcelona. After a six year hiatus away from the Catalan capital, I was excited to visit again at the end of November, not least due to a nostalgic desire to walk the graffiti-laden narrow streets of its charming old districts in search of new sights and creations. One of the first things that struck me upon my first trip to the city back in 2003 was the abundance of graffiti adorning so many of the city’s elegant buildings; strangely, at the time I found it an ugly, decadent sight. Perhaps it’s because I’ve changed, or that street art has diversified so much over the years (probably a bit of both), that this art form has become the one that engages me most. I’m continuously drawn to the spontaneity, vivacity and non-pretentious accessibility of art that is out there in the public domain for everyone to see and enjoy; some of which is purely asthetic (hey, you can never have enough street cats!), others which communicate an important or relevant message about the society we live in and/or unite whole communities around a protest issue. As Barcelona has a particularly proud tradition of protest and independence, I was really curious to walk the city streets again and rediscover new works of art in districts I’d not roamed for so many years.
The day before my trip I was lucky enough to come across a great organisation, Street Style Tour, who provide 2-hour walking tours free of charge (donations accepted) in the El Borne and Raval areas of the city, as well as a 3-hour cycling tour around the post-industrial up-and-coming district of Poble Nou (note this latter one is paid – 18 Euros per person). I decided to do the El Borne tour one afternoon and I would really recommend this one – my guide was extremely personable, informative and talked passionately about the different pieces of art we encountered.
Our guide explained that BCN has three main types of street art – tags (where artists paint their names), stencils and murals. The city became one of the key cities in which graffiti flourished back in the 1970s and 80s in the post-Francoist era but later on, as the city opened up to tourism and began to clean up its act, graffiti laws were introduced and the authorities began to impose heavy fines and adopt a zero tolerance policy. Technically it’s still an illegal activity and the city’s street art mostly consists of tags and stencils, rather than some of the huge impressive murals you tend to see in parts of London where street artists have been encouraged and even commissioned to display their art.
I don’t profess to know an awful lot about the street art movement or the artists themselves but here a few snap shots from the tour which I enjoyed.
The mix of graffiti art and posters below is an atypical sight on doorways in Barcelona. The “STOP Desnonaments” means “Stop evictions” – a hot topic in a country where hundreds of families continue to be evicted from their homes every day since the onset of the recession. Also featured here is a large buddha-esque grinning cat painting which I rather like.
Art meets reality in this pigeon piece by one of the district’s fountains
Love this quirky, colourful creation by Bronik
The photos below depict local residents in a local protest against gentrification
Cultiva tu ciudad! (Nurture your city!) I love the positive message that the piece below portrays
Equally as inspiring is this lovely mural below found in the same square. Joves del nostres barris sembrem nostre futur! (the youth of our neighbourhoods create our future!) Until recently this plaza was run down and heavily frequented by drug users – now it’s been transformed into a family-friendly area with some of the district’s most vibrant street art.
Presumably the work of someone with a disregard for the law (or, at the very least, the Highway Code!)
A piece by SATO, a Madrid-based street artist
Defensa muro del Borne – the collective work of neighbours and artists is a protest against privatisation
The hearts on the mural represent a tribute to the kidnapping of the 43 students from Iguala in Guerrero state, Mexico, in 2014.
Another protest mural in the area showing photographs of local residents
I didn’t have time to fit in any more tours but I spotted lots more street art during my stay – here are some more snaps below:
Huge mural by El mercat de Sant Antoni
Tu haces que la vida se me vuela de colores (you bring colour back into my life) – Raval
Vibrant street scene, Gracia
Collage of street art – all images taken in the Raval district – the dummy is a popular sight and I particularly love the stenciled ladies
I am fond of this little silhoutte cat
Debbie Harry can also be seen in various guises in a British phone box round and about
I will follow this post up with a general one on my trip to Barcelona. Hasta pronto!