Everywhere we stroll in Buenos Aires, and in our neighbourhood of Palermo especially, we see vibrant street art enlivening dull walls and drab building facades. Often dazzling, occasionally bewildering, sometimes the art make us smile, sometimes it makes us think. We have grown to love it.
Buenos Aires resident Marina Charles also became smitten with the stuff – so much so that soon after she and friend Jo Sharff moved to Argentina from the UK two and a half years ago, they set up Graffitimundo to support Buenos Aires street artists by promoting their work.
“We came here to live and fell in love with the street art scene,” Marina explains. “So we went on a mission to meet the artists responsible and hear their stories.”
The pair started Graffitimundo in April 2009, offering street art walking tours, an online gallery, and a medium through which people could find out more about the Buenos Aires street art and graffiti scenes and the artists involved. Marina works closely with artists to organise exhibitions, sell their work, and promote the scene to people who are interested.
What’s the difference between street art and graffiti?
Street art is a type of art placed on the street for everyone to enjoy and connect with. Street art pieces can often be related to the place in which they are situated. Graffiti is more of a universal language that has rules and codes which stay consistent wherever you are, meaning that pieces can look similar wherever you are in the world.
How is it that Buenos Aires and Palermo in particular boast so much brilliant street art?
Some artists are approached by companies to paint their buildings. The artists will paint in their own style, just as they normally would on the streets, and so have freedom to express themselves. Other times the artist will approach a home owner with a sketch and ask if they can decorate the outside of their house, for free, and people will often allow them to do this.
How would you describe the Buenos Aires street art scene?
There are a huge number of street artists in Buenos Aires, too many to count! The scene here is really vibrant. A lot of artists work on many different projects consecutively. They are not just working on the streets. They draw inspiration from various places. The most well established street art groups have been working since 2001, ever since the economic crash brought out a whole wave of people into the streets. Some crews and collectives who are integral to moving the street art scene forward include the Hollywood in Cambodia crew, Doma, and individual graffiti artists like Dano and Nerf, who are inspiring a whole new generation of younger artists to come out and paint in the streets.
What were the circumstances that led to its development?
The economic crash had a pivotal role in propelling many artists out into the streets. Many of the artists working in the streets don’t have support from traditional artist galleries and don’t have money or inclination to paint in more traditional formats. They would rather contribute something of their own to the city’s people and streets as that way it can be seen and appreciated by a whole range of people and not just an elite few. The fairly liberal attitude to painting in the streets here means that artists can paint on the streets without much intervention, which has led to many artists leaving their studios and sharing their art with the city.
Who are the key street artists to look out for?
Collectives like Bs As stencil, Doma and rundontwalk have been working on the streets for about 10 years now. Bs As stencil started by creating humorous political protest pieces in response to the US invasion of Afghanistan. Doma have been creating street installation pieces in Buenos Aires and all over the world, and are well known for their bright colourful pieces, which decorate the streets.
Tell us about your street art tours.
Some of the incredible artists work that we show you on the tour include rundontwalk, Cabaio Stencil, Pedro Perelman, Zumi, Jaz, Ever, and Nerf. The tour gives you the stories behind the art and makes the pieces on the streets come alive so that you start to feel like you know the artists and you’ll soon be spotting their pieces for yourself around the city. You get to meet artists who accompany us on the tour and speak to them about their work and we take you to their art spaces too so you get a feel for the work they do in the streets and in other spaces and mediums too.
Where can visiting street artists meet local street artists in Buenos Aires?
Hollywood in Cambodia would be the obvious place. (Lara’s note: Hollywood in Cambodia is located at Post (above), a bar we love just one block from our ‘home’ in Buenos Aires, where late night beers with the locals is a must!)
Where can a budding artist learn how to create street art?
They can join a stencil workshop at Hollywood in Cambodia or just hang out and go painting with some artists. The scene is pretty relaxing and welcoming here.
A Buenos Aires street art souvenir?
You can buy some amazing artwork from Hollywood in Cambodia and Turbo galleries to take a unique piece of BsAs street art home with you!