They say street art in Barcelona was a big thing until 10 to 15 years ago. That was before the city council began to ‘clean up’ the city by tightening graffiti laws, imposing big fines and white-washing the most colourful areas in town. Later on, a few street art festivals such as ‘The Influencers’ and ‘OpenWall Conference’ claimed some legal walls around the city, while spontaneous street art is essentially reduced to stencil art and pastel art (as in these cases the fine is lower if you are caught).
Nevertheless, I did enjoy my graffiti hunting around Barcelona, especially because –as usually happens with graffiti hunting- it allowed me to explore some of the coolest hoods in the city.
Here is my booty:
Barcelona street art guide > top street artists
Keith Haring’s mural at the MACBA museum
No need to say that the first place I wanted to go as soon as I arrived in Barcelona was Keith Haring’s mural. Painted in 1989 on a neglected building in the Raval neighbourhood, this mural was transferred to a new support preserving the original paint, thanks to MACBA (the Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona), and finally recreated on a new wall in February 2014, on the 25th anniversary of the creation of the original mural. Painted in red, the colour of blood, this mural contains all his iconography: children, life, sex, death and his fight against AIDS.
Borondo’s mural in Carrer Pallars 297
Invited by OpenWall Conference 2015, Borondo realized this stunning, expressionistic mural in the Poblenou district depicting a castell (human tower), which is something very traditional during Catalonian festivals. Castellers from Barcelona wear a red shirt, together with the traditional white trousers and black sash. The mural is titled “Fer Lenya”, a term used when a castell falls. Here Borondo’s spontaneous, expressive brushstrokes and colours shape the forms of his characters, the dripping paint finishes the magic. And even if the castell is about to fall, the tone is contemplative, as in many other works by Borondo.
Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada’s mural in Carrer de la Selva de Mar 215
Born in Cuba, Jorge grew up in USA and then moved to Barcelona 10 years ago, falling in love with the city immediately. He approached street art when he was in college, starting with some works on New York City’s billboards that aimed at changing the semiotics of the city, until he began drawing on walls rather than on paper and creating his signature hyper-realistic portrait murals that look like large-scale pictures.
Realized during the OpenWall conference 2015, this mural is a composite portrait that combines the facial traits of ten different women from the neighbourhood: a 29-meter high tribute to the local community foreseeing a future where differences will melt and we will be united, as a planet.
Enjoy this interview with the artist at work:
BLU’s mural in Carrer del Santuari
As with all other works by BLU, this enormous shark in El Carmel neighbourhood has a strong political and social meaning. The mural depicts a shark, made out of 100€ bills, swallowing up the faded acronym ‘PSOE’, which stands for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. BLU’s shark is speaking against the financial crisis from a neighbourhood, El Carmel, of workers and immigrants.
I’m always impressed by the level of detail in his works, and even if the mural was painted in 2009 and therefore very faded now, it is no less here.
Enjoy the making of video, featuring the impressions of passers-by:
Ethos’ mural in Av. Mare de Déu de Monserrat 13
Yet another mural realized during the OpenWall Conference 2015, this mesmerizing work by the Brazilian artist Claudio Ethos refers, like the rest of his artistic production, to both comics and surrealist art. Using a minimal colour palette, Ethos depicts emotional states such as struggle and urban anxiety through his flexible and surreal characters, who are always a bit misshapen and kind of stretched: the twisted protagonists of a dismantled reality.
Crisa’s mural in Carrer de la Selva de Mar
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As usual, the Italian artist Federico Carta a.k.a. Crisa reflects on the balance, or –better- the contrast, between natural and urban landscapes. So here the natural landscape (represented by the colour green) is fighting with the grey shapes: the human constructions. Men are trying to find their own space, an equilibrium that is symbolized by the unstable wooden structure, which attempts to holding everything up, while plants are invading the composition and butterflies are stepping out from their usual habitat.
Agostino Iacurci’s works at Urban Outfitters (Plaza de Catalunya)
The Italian artist, Agostino Iacurci, painted a couple of hoardings for the opening of the shop, Urban Outfitters, in downtown Barcelona. Both works depict his iconic, vivid-coloured men hiding behind plants, symbolizing the equilibrium between man and nature, which is actually an apparent quiet that is about to end.
Here is a video with an interview with Agostino Iacurci about his work for Urban Outfitters:
Barcelona street art guide > La Escocesa
At the heart of the very hipster neighbourhood of Poblenou, inside a factory that produced chemical products for the textile industry, nowadays there is a cultural centre of 21 ateliers for local and international visual artists, who are selected through a contest and “replaced” every couple of years. La Escocesa is usually closed to the public, except during exhibitions or during the Festival de Murales, a street art festival involving ten street artists a year.
Together with my fellow travel blogger, Duncan Rhodes, I went inside the former factory to check out the murals from the latest street art festival;
here are my favourite ones:
Axel Void’s mural at La Escocesa
Well, you already know how much I love him! Here the Spanish-American artist painted a work that is very different from his usual style inspired by classical paintings. While his portraits are usually so realistic as to look like photos, this time a man’s countenance is wrapped into a cloud of decadence that blurs the details of his head.
Read my interview with Axel Void at Nuart 2016!
JAZ’s mural at La Escocesa
Titled “FRANCO arrives to Barcelona”, this huge mural is about the independence movement in Catalonia. Once again the Argentinian artist is suggesting a reflection on modern society and its social and historical themes, and he does so through a play on words (the artist’s real name is Franco Fasoli) that refers to his arrival in Barcelona at the exact same time as Catalonia gaining independence, which was voted through on the day the mural was unveiled.
Pastel’s mural at La Escocesa
Yet another Argentinian street artist made his mark inside La Escocesa former factory. On the wall at the bottom of the chimney in the middle of the yard, Pastel painted a circle made up of naturalistic components, like plants, which are typical of the area and whose colours are taken from the palette of the surroundings. Through his traditionally figurative imaginary inspired by the local flora, once again the artist is using symbolism to explore and share stories about the spaces where he paints and the local identities inhabiting it. This is what I like the most about Pastel’s art: it’s never a work sketched somewhere else and imposed on the wall, but rather it develops from the wall itself and its surroundings as the result of a two-way relationship.
Skount’s mural at La Escocesa
With this mural, which is titled “Trash in head”, the Spanish artist focuses again on political and social issues. In this mural his iconic characters, who aim at representing our inner worlds, are hiding their faces inside black garbage bags, which are labelled with a word representing a threat of the modern age -racism, tv, authority, dominion- impeding their movements and vision.
A few more pictures from my graffiti hunting inside La Escocesa former factory:
Barcelona street art guide > top neighbourhoods
Besides these amazing large-scale murals, around the streets of Barcelona there is still plenty of autonomous, non-commissioned street art to be seen as well. Here are the neighbourhoods where you are likely to find it:
Graffiti hunting around Poblenou neighbourhood
Did I mention that Poblenou is my favourite neighbourhood in Barcelona? ;) With its Brooklyn charm, this post-industrial area of former factories and red brick buildings is the perfect setting for some great street art. Besides La Escocesa factory and some of the murals I have mentioned above, here is what else I found:
Graffiti hunting around Gracia neighbourhood
Another neighbourhood where you can find some great street art is Gracia. Wandering around its villagish, cobbled alleys you will spot many pieces, especially stencil works, by talented and yet not-so-popular artists, especially in the area surrounding the food market, which btw is worth a visit if only for its genuine atmosphere.
Graffiti hunting around El Raval neighbourhood
Bordering with La Rambla, El Raval is a very central neighbourhood well known for its nightlife and multiculturalism. Here I spotted several small works lost among graffiti on long walls, colourful hidden gems that are spicing up the streets of this quirky hood.
Bonus track: street art at Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies
For some more old-style graffiti, instead, head towards this post-industrial square at the beginning of Avenida del Parallel.
Designed in 1995 by Pere Riera and Josep Maria Gutierrez, this urban garden incorporates part of the former electrical power plant ‘Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company’, whose three chimneys give the name to the park.
If you are lucky, you can also stumble upon break-dancers and skaters, as this park is an important spot for Barcelona’s urban culture.
You find some of these murals in my travel video “4 days in Barcelona…in 40 seconds“
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