From the colourful streets of Lisbon to the heart of Barcelona, graffiti – or street art – is going through a cultural renaissance. Perhaps it would be more fitting to refer to graffiti as the ugly duckling of the art world.
Formerly seen as something gauche, this form of artistic expression has transformed from a public eyesore into something that should be taken very seriously. The slow rise of interest in graffiti means that many countries are now vying for the title of the world’s best street art.
Whether you’re Banksy in Bristol or Blu in Italy, there are hundreds of artists expressing themselves on walls around cities, old train carriages and buildings. For some, it’s seen as breathing life into a city, injecting it with a burst of colour and vibrancy that the city was lacking before yet for other, it’s seen as degradation and antisocial.
Whatever your opinion, it’s wholly clear that this art form is capturing the attention of the world, creating tourism in the unlikeliest of places. Objectively, it has to be appreciated for its form and style no matter what you think of it. And, if it creates discussion, is that the purpose of art?
Google has also got involved. Their street art project which aims to explore the stories behind artists and their artwork. Their interactive and encyclopedic map allows users to hone in one a city, a town or a place where their street art has struck. It gives detailed information and interactive walking tours with audio.
Absolutely brilliant for anyone who likes street art or anyone who wants to change their opinion on street art. Google’s got the answer. As usual. Let’s have a look at a few cities that are really popping when it comes to graffiti and urban art.
Where exactly can you find the world’s best street art?
Lisbon’s growing prominence in the street art scene is a testament to how good the art is that is coming out of the Portuguese capital. Not only that but the government supports this unique form of expression by being one of the few cities to have a government department for urban and street art.
The department deals with the preservation, promotion and encouragement of street art. But looking at pictures, it’s no wonder this place is a hotbed for those who love indulging in urban art.
And, if those pictures got you excited, then check out Filomena’s street art tour or let Patricia tell you all about the art explosion on her Lisbon street art tour.
Barcelona is getting in on the action, too. Walking around the city is like being in one very large contemporary art gallery, the walls adorned with beautiful imagery. The thriving skater scene goes hand in hand with the graffiti and it’s no surprise then that people from all over the world come here to indulge in the culture.
The city’s Raval neighbourhood was once seen a no-go zone for tourists but as time has gone on, this former dodgy district has slowly transformed itself into a trendy hub for the city’s coolest inhabitants. Its array of colourful art and personalities make this neighbourhood definitely one to explore. And Cayetana is one girl who knows the art scene in the city like the back of her hand on her Barcelona street art tour.
The city’s open attitude towards the alternative makes it canvas for artists alike. Barcelona is also home to a multitude of studios, workshops and galleries meaning that art runs through the veins of the city.
Rome has a beautiful relationship with art. Its architecture is a view into the past with buildings stemming from the Renaissance and art being the soul of Rome. It’s a dynamic and ever-changing scene that decorates the city, creating a contrast between traditional art and new, urban art.
Changing attitudes is no easy task and having locals view the art as something of value instead of vandalism is what the street art in Rome aims to do.
The alternative neighbourhood of Pigneto exemplifies this. It’s bohemian vibes permeate the city and is a hub for creatives and artists alike – whether it’s music, art or culture, this district is a place to get your fix of graffiti. Cultural explorers venture to Rome to get a glimpse of the subversive urban art and experience the alternative way of life.
Gianluca is one Roman who will take you around the city and show you the Rome street art in all its glory. And together you can discover the history behind the emerging and flourishing art scene. Highly recommended.
It’s clear that there is no one city that excels at having the world’s best street art but within Europe, there are certain cities like Rome, Lisbon and Barcelona that are embracing urban art. And it’s paying off, people are coming to take part in street art tours in those cities; creating a new type of art tourism. Getting people out of the museums and galleries and into the street to experience a different kind of art, to deepen their appreciation and understand more about the politics and culture of a city.