9 Best Street Art Cities
Street art is having a moment, with open-air galleries popping up across the globe. Rachel Beard rounds up the best places for spraycations.
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Photo by Joachim and thanks to graffitistreet.com
Lined with crumbling pastel buildings and burnt orange rooftops, Lisbon’s vibrant streets provide a colorful canvas where street art is actively embraced. The Crono Project commissions artists to transform neglected structures in the business district. Look for dramatic wall carvings by local resident Vhils and striking 3D murals made from scrap metals and trash by Bordalo II.
Dubbed the stencil capital of the world, Melbourne hosts an annual festival dedicated to street art and examples can be found all across town. Hosier Lane, a cobblestone alleyway near Federation Square is the city’s graffiti gateway and acts as an ever-changing gallery that displays works by local artists including Be Free, Ha-Ha and Kaff-eine.
The Big Smoke has been a popular canvas for urban doodlers since the 70s and 80s when wildstyle tags decorated sections of the underground tube network. Satirical stenciler, Banksy, made his name here and a few original pieces can still be seen in and around east London. Head to Shoreditch, Camden or Brixton to see iconic works from the likes of Otto Shade, Stik and Jimmy C. For emerging artists check out Leake Street, a designated graffiti tunnel underneath Waterloo train station.
Beyond the city's world-class museums and blockbuster exhibitions, the streets are alive with works by A-list urban artists including the master of mosaics, Invader, whose pixelated pieces decorate hidden corners of Paris. Explore the eclectic district of Belleville, the hipster 'hood, Canal Saint-Martin and the 10th and 19th arrondissements to seek out art by fellow Frenchmen JR, known for his giant photographic portraits, and Blek le Rat, the father of stencil graffiti.
At the heart of Berlin’s street art scene is the East Side Gallery, a mile-long section of the Berlin Wall painted in 1990 by over 100 artists from across the globe. In Kreuzberg, east Berlin’s hipster hub, it’s hard to miss Victor Ash’s giant Astronaut on the side of an office block, said to be the largest stencil drawing in the world. Berlin resident El Bocho has made his mark on the city with his signature ‘Little Lucy’ cut outs and painted ladies that decorate Rosenthaler Strasse, one of the city’s artistic arteries. The warehouses around Schleseisches Tor offer good graffiti-spotting opportunities.
Pioneering projects like MOCA’s 2011 Art in the Streets exhibition curated by Jeffrey Deitch (the first major retrospective to celebrate the art form) elevate LA’s position as a leading street art city. It also hosted the world's first global street art fair in early October 2015 at the Pacific Design Center, a three-day event that showcased works by 35+ LA-based street artists. Explore La Brea Boulevard for iconic works by Retna and Banksy, Melrose Avenue for vivid murals by A-list artist Shepard Fairey, and the LA Arts District for pieces by David Choe.
Rio de Janeiro
It’s easy to see why Rio continuously tops the charts as the world’s best street art city. According to Design Week “Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant standards of a global urban art movement” and street art was legalized in the city in 2009. You’ll find colorful creations in all corners of Rio, from the favelas to the posh neighborhoods (the high security walls make great canvases) but some of the best works are in the ares of Santa Teresa and Lapa. Climb the famous Selaron Steps created by Chilean artist, Jorge Selaron made from 2000+ tiles from over 60 countries. The walls of the Rio de Janeiro Jockey Club contain the largest collection of street art in the city. Spy pieces by artist and activist Paulo Ito, homegrown hero Smael Vagner and pieces by street art pioneers, the Flashback Crew.
Despite a strict no tolerance policy on graffiti, Oslo’s urban art scene is thriving. And where better to get an affordable art fix in one of the world most expensive cities than to take to the streets? Head east to the once gritty Grünerløkka neighbourhood around Ingens gate, an art-strewn alleyway at a bohemian bend of the Akerselva river, and to Sofienberg for multi-story murals. Spot pop art-influenced pieces by DOT DOT DOT, Manga-style works by Arnt Ove Foss and street signs shaken up by Etiskvandalism, a self-titled ‘Scadinavian Troll Collective’.
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