Barcelona is overly-known for its top attractions wrapped up in Antoni Gaudί’s eccentric architectural style, but there is more to reveal from the local art scene. During my visit to Barcelona I decided to take an alternative tour of the city that would allow me to see it from a completely non-touristy perspective. Who hasn’t walked down a street and remarked on some urban artwork and wondered what the story of the artist behind it is or what is it trying to convey? This is exactly how the tour unfolded: the stories behind the enigmatic urban artworks of Barcelona!
Barcelona’s graffiti Golden Age occurred during 2000-2004 when international and local artists turned the city into a great street art hub where freedom of expression ruled. The best places to find street style artworks in Barcelona are by far El Born, El Raval and the Gothic Quarter. All together form a significant part of Barcelona’s creative and bohemian side with plenty of vintage and antique shops, skateboarding spots, chic cafés and more.
However, the huge graffiti wave generated rage within communities and anti-graffiti laws were introduced by the government, city cleaners removing any street artwork that was painted on public walls. The artists however, didn’t cease from making their work seen in the public eye by using alternative methods. That’s why you will keep spotting different quirky elements scattered on the city’s walls, such as objects of various shapes, colours and textures and pre-made artworks that enable the artist to leave his mark in the urban space within seconds, without being caught and having to pay fines up to €3000. Stencils, stickers, posters and tags are the most frequently used techniques that are fast and easy to associate with the artists.
For instance, BL2A (‘baldosa’ which in Spanish means floor tile) places ceramic tiles around the city which illustrate different aspects concerning the human mind and how it can be influenced by others, as depicted in the picture below.
Also, artists like Vegan Bunnies, Rice, proud Peruvian artist Bronik or Ozzy cannot be missed either due to their widely spread stickers, posters or stencils across Barcelona’s streets and allies.
There are walls or shutters adorned with impressive and some intricate graffiti works, both legal and illegal. The legal ones are commissioned street style pieces that beautify shops, private residences etc. Some examples can be seen below.
Aryz’s commissioned artwork at Montana Café and Pizza
However, illegal graffiti pieces and murals can still be found on public shutters which are exempt from cleaning up or, for example, in small squares on old buildings’ facades where they are appreciated for their decorative function.
Below you can read about a few artists that stood out to me throughout the tour.
Konair is a very energetic artist whose ice lollies can be spotted literally everywhere in the city. He paints them variously to convey different emotions, be it happiness or anger.
Kram is originally from Barcelona and his graffiti pieces are inspired by cartoons. He illustrates human feelings into animals. The piece below shows an angry local’s reaction towards a tourist taking pictures. His pieces are very dynamic and expressive.
I also very much liked Italian artist tvboy whose pieces are inspired by Pop Art and I find them somehow satirical regarding today’s society as illustrated by Frida taking selfies and Salvador Dalί pretending to be the cool kid on the block.
Tthe last artist is Francisco de Pájaro or El arte e$ ba$ura (Art is trash) who is recognisable by his unusual pieces which are made of discarded items that are eventually taken by waste collectors. This way he criticizes the society’s desire for perfection. He also uses different urban canvases where he adds his personal touch to older artworks.
Alternative street art tours can be found not only in Barcelona, but in all major cities, including London, New York, Berlin, Melbourne and can be tracked via Trip Advisor. I truly think it’s an original and very insightful way of discovering a city through the lens of urban artists.
Text and photos by Ana Maria Enache