Street Art in Madrid, Spain
Some of my friends make street art and some of my friends are disturbed by street art. In Clovis, California, where I live, residents are asked to immediately report it to the police department’s Graffiti Hotline: (559) 324-2426. And, if this were my Airbnb is Southern California, I would not be happy about my neighbor’s front door.
But my international city traveling husband is opening the door on our Airbnb in Madrid Spain, where street art is plentiful, interesting, even encouraged; a part of the urban landscape.
Usually considered sloppy maintenance and urban decay, in Spain, street art is mixed with gang tagging. This isn’t your parent’s fear of spray paint. If Madrid had a graffiti hotline, it would be a place to report the latest artist’s new work.
Normally, I don’t take organized tours when I travel. I booked my first Airbnb over five years ago, and they are now offering “Experiences,” essentially tours by local talent. They are easy to book and I appreciate having the quality assurance by Airbnb and payment made on line in advance. I decided to give it a try with an Urban Street Art tour.
After visiting Madrid’s art by old dead guys; Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, the Madrid Railway Museum, and the smaller Museum ABC (which highlighted illustrated novels and Spain’s comic book history,) I was excited to get out into the community to see Madrid's gallery in the streets.
My Cool Tour Spain guide Javier, started with a little bit of history: the first cave art was a stencil of a hand, stencils used in WWII on planes, Taki187 New York Street artist in 1960’s, and Muelle is recognized as Madrid’s first street artist.
Many pieces around Madrid were painted as part of curated adjudicated street art festivals. After the festival, some pieces remain, some works are removed, and some are defaced by illegal taggers. Some gang tagging near the train station is over 18 years old and no one even remembers who did it.
Our first art piece was created by one of Javier’s friends. It was an example of various ways to use spray paint cans. There is a technical skill to spray painting by heavy splatter, light spray, and taping areas. I have used spray paint, and I appreciate that it took some practice to get it to do what I wanted.
I have seen, but never really noticed or gave much attention to paper paste ups. A piece is first constructed at home and soaked in a paste made of flour, vinegar, salt and water. On the street, the wall is washed with the paste using a broom. The pre-printed rolled-up artwork is stuck onto the wall with long handled grabbers then spread out. Older pieces curl up, fade, and fall off the walls.
I have also never seen a street artist using mosaic tiles, but there is one in Madrid!
On the tour, I started to see, not just look at different types of art in the streets.
1) Graffiti – vandals making junk. Maybe angry, messy, random, not pretty, and look the much the same in Fresno, Zurich, San Francisco, Panama, and Madrid, Spain.
2) Street Surprise – “oh, look at that..” sign modification and smaller pieces that could be overlooked, but have some thought, intention, and even fun. My favorite was Yipi Yipi Yeah.
3) “I was here!” repetitive usually small pieces, sometimes produced off site. After taking the tour, I saw Mucho Queo all around town. It wasn’t the most elaborate execution, but it became a bit of a game “Look.. Mucho Queso was here.” Mostly, it feels like someone wants to be recognized, and acknowledged.
4) The Mini Muralists presented small skilled works with thought and effort on a small skilled scale. Por Favor – a boy sitting in corner; and Labor of Love – purple toothbrush or rubber gloves.
5) What really made Madrid and Valencia special were the Mega Murals. Sometimes commissioned, or part of an organized event, these large pieces included many women artists, who I found an inspiration. The artists Alice and Julietta exhibited technical skill and an emotional personal style. They weren’t always angry, and sometimes they were playful. There is so much anger in our world, I have to stop and soak up something that makes me happy.
Spain’s Mega Murals that decorate businesses are sometimes commissioned to fit the building’s purpose, or the artist may be hired to create a work of his own expression. We stopped at one of Spain’s Time Banks. Reported in the Guardian, this is a unique type of bank; people can put in time working for someone, get a place time token in the bank, and use that token for someone else’s skilled time later. An old-fashioned trade services for services, you help me - I help you, underground alternative banking system.
I loved the tour of Madrid’s authentic street life. This was my first Airbnb experience and it has me re-thinking organized tours. It was well worth getting a guide. With Javier’s helpful explanations, I went from looking at street graffiti to seeing street art. He pointed out things I have been walking around, but not recognizing. Javier was very knowledgeable, well-traveled, friendly, and engaging. After enjoying the big old art of dead guys, it was refreshing to see impassioned current art by the men, and women living in today’s Spain.
Javi can be found at Cool Tour Spain: https://www.cooltourspain.com/product/street-art-tour/ and his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cooltourspain/
Thank you Javi!
Art is an open process of communication between the artist and the viewer. An exchange of time, ideas, effort, and experience. Sometimes the artist is talented, thoughtful or expressive. Sometimes angry. Sometimes just needing attention. Sometimes fun. Sometimes I can see past the trash and see art in an urban landscape.
I took so many photos, I wanted to take it home so I made a slideshow.
Urban Nature Slideshow:
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