In Rome, as in so many other cities – from Europe to South America – the most political street artist is BLU: a 30-something Italian guy whose identity is hushed – although his art speaks loudly.
BLU always highlights political and social issues, often painting on squats and forgotten areas of the cities. His works are always over-abundant with metaphors, allegories and symbols, through which he expresses his dissident point of view of our society.
He usually avoids festivals, exhibitions and art galleries, and he even erased his own murals in Berlin and in Bologna to speak against gentrification and the monetization of street art.
- Read also: “Street Art in Rome: A Guide to Ephemeral Art in Italy’s Eternal City” the ultimate travel guide to the top 26 neighborhoods to find street art in Rome, with handpicked local tips to eat, drink and shop in Rome like a local.
Street Art by BLU in Rome > CSOA FRONTE DEL PORTO, Via del Porto Fluviale (2014) || Ostiense
Street art by BLU in Rome > ALEXIS, Via Ostiense 124 (2013) || Ostiense
|picture from www.blublu.org|
This small building on Via Ostiense was previously owned by Acea (the Italian energy company) and –after that- by Atac (the Roman public transport company). It’s been occupied by students and temp workers who turned it into a popular squat named after Alexis Grigoropoulos, who was a Greek student killed by a policeman in Exarchia during a riot in 2008. BLU portrays Alexis on the right side of the facade, over an intricate chain of cars held together by a colossal lock –a reference to the chaotic traffic of the area, which makes the city hard to live in.
[Edit 2017: sadly, Alexis has been now shut down by the municipality].
Street art by BLU in Rome > CSOA ACROBAX, Via della Vasca Navale 6 (2012) || Marconi
My favourite piece by BLU is also one of the first murals he painted in town. It’s from the time when he wasn’t using as many bright colours as he does now, which brings a remarkable contrast between the minimalism of the style (black and white shades in a very simple line) and the grandeur of the project itself. This large-scale piece is on the facade of an abandoned dog track. It’s been occupied since 2002 and turned into one of the most popular squats in Rome: CSOA Acrobax. The whole building has been turned into ancient Roman architecture through a trompe-l’oeil that is itself at the core of the artwork. It’s similar to politicians’ rhetorical speeches, this fake classical architecture looks realistic from afar, but –once you get closer- it shows itself for what it really is: an optical illusion.
Reading among the symbolic figures, you can find attacks against religion, consumerism, wars, politicians and more. The mural spreads around the ‘average man’, who is buried in front of TV. He’s lazy, and made apathetic by mass media treatment – so much so that he doesn’t care about the political scandals taking place all around him. The scandals involve secret societies, puppet-soldiers, politicians (wearing masks and taking money behind their backs), clerics, violent policemen and other people in power.
Appeared in July 2021, that is 20 years after the killing of Carlo Giuliani by Italian police during an anti-globalisation demonstration outside the G8 summit in Genoa, this intricate mural by BLU appears in the book “Nessun Rimorso – Genova 2001 – 2021” along with comics, texts and illustrations by several Italian artists who witnessed the human rights violations occurred on those days.
Street Art by BLU in Rome > Via Ostiense (2014) || Ostiense
Street Art by BLU in Rome > Via Recanati (2014) || San Basilio
Street Art by BLU in Rome > Via Ciciliano (2015) || Casal de’ Pazzi
Street Art by BLU in Rome > Via Ciciliano (2019) || Casal de’ Pazzi
Titled “Capita” (“It happens”), the mural by BLU depicts waterslides shaped like an intestine and leading into two separate tanks. The colorful waterslides lead into a tank where a few influential people float in the crystalline water, enjoying life. The gray waterslides, instead, lead into a tank of putrid water where a mass of regular people suffers poverty and injustice.
Street Art by BLU in Rome > Via Giovanni Palombini (2015) || Casal de’ Pazzi
Street Art by BLU in ROME > EX-SNIA, Via Prenestina 163 (2017) || Pigneto
Street Art by BLU in ROME > Piazza del Quarticciolo (2018) || Quarticciolo
A contemporary take on the Venus of Milo and Michelangelo’s David.
Find these murals (and many more!) in my Rome Travel & Street Art Map!