It’s no secret that Barcelona is a very artistic city and people from all over the world come to visit either appreciate art or become an artist. We’ve all heard of Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, and Dalí, and their creations surround us everywhere we walk. But what not everyone knows, and not everyone sees, is that Barcelona isn’t just a modernist city, but a very contemporary one as well.
Take a minute to look around you once you first step onto Barcelona’s streets and take in what you see. Although the haters can say it’s vandalism, what we see in streets is art. Maybe different from what you’re used to seeing in museums, but still art nonetheless.
The streets of El Raval and Poble Sec
Artists from all over the world come to Barcelona to develop their work and surround themselves with the artistry world that lies in this city. All the way from Chile, Canada or England, these artists have taken over the streets of most of the barrios in Barcelona (especially El Raval and Poble Sec) and have created what could be called an entire canvas out of the walls, doors, and windows.
It’s very interesting to stop and see what is really painted on these surfaces. Maybe at plain sight, it could shock our eyes and think it’s just dirty, but the skills behind what’s displayed are just outstanding and the outcome of what’s painted can be just gorgeous. A simple example of what I’m saying is this door found on Ferlandina Street, right next to the MACBA (Contemporary Art Museum).
Like this piece, you’ll be able to find so many more all around this street and the ones close to it.
Normally, the life expectancy of graffitis (as they’re commonly known) isn’t very long, so it’s very impressing noticing the respect some of the artists get to their pieces. People like Pez (fish) and El Xupete Negre (the black pacifier) have graffitis on the streets of Barcelona that are dated to 5 years ago.
Meet the artists
It’s impossible for you to know exactly how many artists there are in Barcelona; from the locals to the foreigners that have come and stayed, and the ‘travelers’ which are the ones that come for a couple of weeks, make their work and move onto another city. But the truth is that there are some artists that are well known and their work you’ve probably seen around the city.
I’ve mentioned Pez and El Xupete Negre before, and it’s because they’re –maybe- the most well known around the street art world.
Other artists that are really good, and also well known are Gordo, Pezkhamino, Kram, SM172, C215, El arte es basura (art is trash), Zone and Onergizer. Also, the list could go on and on if there were no anonymous artists.
It is very interesting to see how these people grow and progress as you walk around and you’re immersed in this street art world. One more talented than the other, they see art as a form of expression and communication.
Some artists are more recognizable than others, as their artwork is very similar and distinctive. That’s the case of C215, El Arte es Basura, Zone, and Gordo. All of them have a signature creation: the fine strikes of the pencil brush for C215, the big explosive eyes for El Arte es Basura, the parrot-like hair for Pájaro, the two bombs for Zone and an illustration of a person with one eye bigger than the other for Gordo.
You’ll be able to find these graffitis walking around El Raval. Some of them are easier to find than other, but don’t worry because it doesn’t really matter where exactly in El Raval you are, you’ll find other very similar masterpieces of these artists.
Barcelona Free Walls
Usually, if you get caught painting on the streets, the police gives you a €3.000 fine (at least) that you have to pay. This became one of the main reasons why Murs Lliures (Free Walls) was created in 2012. They started as an organization that finds walls all around Barcelona that are in bad shape and need to be painted.
What they do is free these spaces around the city so urban artists can paint on them legally. They take a petition to the City Hall and make the art of graffiti something legal.
You will be able to find these walls by Poble Sec next to Plaça de la Carnonera and Jardín de Les Tres Xemeneises.
(I apologize in advance for these two last photos. When I went to the Free Walls, they were surrounded by gates… I guess they’re doing some work there, so I just managed to take the pictures from a corner.)
A really interesting fact about street art is that it’s a form of expression; so don’t be surprised to find awesome messages on the streets. Most of these messages are anonymous. Here’s a perfect example of what you could find walking around Barcelona.
The new addition to the city is what I like to call the “Love Cans”. No one knows who’s the mastermind behind this new art, but everyone that walks along El Raval just loves them. It consists of creating messages using used cans and sticking them on the walls. Messages like “I Love Barcelona”, or “Dream Big” is the kind of saying they promote.
If you find this type of art interesting, just take a minute of your day to appreciate what is surrounding you, you could be really impressed by the technique and amount of talent these artists have. Also, you can see a documentary titled “Las Calles Hablan” (The Streets Speak) by Justin Donlon, Silvia Vidal and Katrine Knauer. It’s in English and it’s got subtitles as well: