White Walls Say Nothing – Urban Art In Buenos Aires
“First day of Advanced Art, my teacher said “I bet none of you know an artist who is currently alive” I raised my hand and said “Banksy” he shook his head and said he wasn’t a real artist, that is when I knew he wasn’t a real art teacher.” Ariel Dennis
Streets are the world’s biggest gallery and in Buenos Aires, graffimundo are the curators. graffitimundo is a nonprofit organization that promotes street art in Buenos Aires. They have group tours every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 3 :00 PM and private tours available. It is a great way to see the street art of Buenos Aires. Contact them at http://graffitimundo.com/.
It is not exactly illegal to paint on the outside walls in Buenos Aires. As long as the artists have the consent of the building owners, it is fine. There are many unoccupied spaces and dividing walls between buildings. This gives plenty of locations for artists to bring a wall to life.
It is possible to come across artists painting during the day on the walls. This is unheard of in most other cities. Urban artists come from all over the world to paint here. They don’t have to run in the night and have time to create some beautiful thought-provoking pieces.
I love graffiti art. My dog is named after a graffiti artist. It is the art of the community. People have always written on walls-from cave paintings to love hate propaganda to murals of epic detail and size. You have to be really committed to paint on a wall knowing it won’t be there forever. The paint will fade, cracks will form or someone can paint over it. It’s a product of the moment. It is art for art’s sake and not for sale.
I don’t even mind the writing graffiti. It is some form of communication. When I used to see the freshly painted writing on the trains in NY (I thought it looked great), I would think – another person who has a found a way to express his anger without a gun. Of course, I’m not the woman in Buenos Aires who washes it off her walls every day or the people who clean up hate crimes of “art”. There was one street where a father kept writing I love you to his kids. I wonder what he did that he had to write it all over the walls. There are always stories.
Johnny Robson was my tour guide and founder of graffitmundo. They started it because they thought the urban art scene in Buenos Aires was amazing. There was no information about it. graffitimundo was formed to help share what they had learned with anyone who was interested. It was their way to support people who were incredibly talented and under appreciated.
Johnny is passionate and knowledgeable about the art, artists and their style of painting on the streets of BA. Every artist and every picture tells a story and Johnny is only too happy to tell them all. Halfway into the tour , I find myself recognizing artists and styles. The pieces are dynamic. Some express political and social messages and some may just express emotion. They are filled with energy, color and life.
You get to see streets all over Buenos Aires as well. On the tour we visited walls in Palermo, Villa Crespo, Chacarita and Colegiales.
I loved the collaborative pieces. In the early graffiti years, Crews (art gangs) have always worked together to paint on the subways and streets. This gave way to Collaboratives – sometimes political -that could do more than an individual artist. According to Johnny, the artists are happy to share the walls with other talented artists. Another reason urban artists like to paint in BA.
We stop off at Hollywood in Cambodia (great name for a gallery) an urban art gallery located on the first floor above Post Bar in Palermo with a rooftop terrace. Americans would probably call it the second floor. It is run by a few art collectives. I want to buy everything, but settle on a couple of pieces that I can carry.
There is not an empty space of wall in the bar below either.
The title of this piece is also the title of a documentary that will be out soon. “White Walls Say Nothing” is a feature documentary, produced by White Wall Industries in association with graffitimundo. It is the story of Buenos Aires Urban Art Scene as told by the artists. I can’t wait to see it.
I highly recommend this tour in Buenos Aires if you are interested in modern art or street culture. For hipsters and scenesters it is the coolest thing to do (unless you are actually painting on the walls)
I’m still amazed by the amount of street art and quality of some of the pieces I saw that day. I turned a corner and I saw a painting that I wanted to look at for a long time . I watched people walk by and not even look up. It’s crazy that they didn’t see what they were missing. Because art , like luck is where you find it.
Viaje con cuidado,
great post, Jayne – thanks for sharing!
Hi Jayne, As usual,, good stuff – needless to say, since it is the topic of this blog, you only show areas where the outdoor art is present, how much of the city (and is it segregated by affluence) features such work? Harv
thanks for commenting Jim – sorry no food blogs this time, im not a meat fan, next time!!!
Hi Harvey, I dont know. 🙂
Thanks Jayne for the great piece. Harvey in answer to your question – Buenos Aires is covered in graffiti of all kinds – political messages and propaganda, tags, murals, stencils. There are a large number of incredible artworks all over the city; on the walls of hidden away, gritty parts of La Boca and Barracas in the South as well as the more upmarket areas of Palermo and Colegiales. What is key to this prolificacy of talent is the culture of permissiveness in Buenos Aires.