I don’t think I’ve ever walked into an art gallery and not realized I was in an art gallery. Until yesterday. Turns out Barcelona is a hotbed of street art, sometimes known as graffiti. We took a walking tour of that art with a very knowledgeable expat from California.
Seems that just after the repression of Franco, Barcelona became a magnet for street artists, and has continued that way despite the occasional efforts of the city fathers to clean up and/or paint over the street art.
There is actually a sort of very loose community of these artists and an etiquette about how and where to place street art. Respected artists and their works are generally not defaced by other artists. Instead, those respected works are sort of augmented as the work of other artists cluster and accrete around the originals, forming a communal collage. The wildly varying visions placed side by side and layer on layer become new, evolving art. The results remind me of another genre of art associated with Barcelona, surrealism.
If you know what to look for, there’s a history unfolding in much of this art. Our guide related many stories of the artists and their intentions, and also spotted several new pieces that he needed to research to stay on top of the street art that changes daily.
And of course, there is politics. Often the art available in the streets is strictly advertising, except for the work of the street artists. Their work is generally done without hope of financial gain (though some are able to transition to paintings that hang in galleries). Often there is a struggle between these artists and the politicians and police.
This is not a pigeon. It’s street art. See how the grey background around the bird doesn’t match exactly? That’s because the city has painted out everything else, and left the bird. Admittedly this is a minor example, but people with a history that includes fascism and repression are quite sensitive about any government having any say in what art is shown and what is removed.
These days the artists often prefer to avoid painting on public property. Instead, they paint on private property, often at the request of the owners. Better to ask a skilled artist to “bomb” your property than leave it unpainted and an inviting target to those less skilled.
In my last post I included a pic of a wonderfully evocative face sculpted into the Arc de Triomf. Here’s a gallery of the faces of street art.
And more faces. Here’s a photographer taking his portraits to the street.
These photos are all pasted up on walls.
He often poses people in boxes because of their playful responses.
No clue where we’ll find the next adventure. That maritime museum looked interesting…