The History of Barcelona Street Art

2016-04-22-1461319301-6156751-ChristianGwemyakaC215-thumbAfter Francisco Franco’s death on 20 November 1975 a new sense of freedom was born in Barcelona. Artists came to Barcelona from all over the world, started to paint in the city’s streets.

Barcelona is a city that has long been celebrated in artistic circles for its Gaudi architecture, it’s Joan Miro sculptures, and its world-renowned Picasso museum. However, in more recent times the City has developed itself into a world-leading City for graffiti and street art.

Christian Gwemy, AKA C215, is a Parisian street artists who produces striking, highly intricate pieces. Many are intimate portrait-like images, in which ordinary people are treated as icons. C215 is also known as “France’s answer to Banksy”.

In 1989, Keith Haring traveled to Barcelona where he painted on a large mural “Todos juntos podemos parar el SIDA” (Together We Can Stop AIDS) in El Raval or the Barrio del Chino—a notorious drug area. An area where used syringes and drug paraphernalia cluttered the streets. The mural was painted on a concrete buttress in la plaza Salvador Segui and contained many of Haring’s famous trademark symbols—dancing figures, snakes, syringes and the three figures of See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil or in this case: speak out, educate, and understand the dangers of AIDs. Haring produced the work for free, hoping it would inspire change.

In the 1990s, the mural fell into disrepair and was moved to and commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona.

2016-04-22-1461319540-5533688-IMG_0812-thumbThe 1992 Barcelona Olympics, saw the City transform into one of the most rejuvenated cities of our modern world. “Barcelona” is also a single released by Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury. The song was performed by Freddie Mercury and Soprano Montserrat Caballe. Freddie said she was the most beautiful women he ever met. Caballe requested that Freddie write a song about her hometown, and he did so, in Barcelona, a song about meeting a lover in a breathtakingly beautiful city. “Barceloan” was supposed to be the theme song for the ‘92 Olympic Games, however the organisers chose another song at the last minute due to Freddie’s death at the end of ‘91 from AIDS. To avoid controversy the song was still performed at the opening ceremonies, with Caballe performing live to a backing track featuring Freddie’s vocals.

 Between 1999-2005, Barcelona was overflowing with international graffiti artists and highlighted the Spanish artists trying to become noticed. Barcelona was considered the unofficial graffiti city of the world. the Golden Age of street art. Since this transformation, Barcelona has also taken over the city- graffiti and street art included. Many artists are now disappointed with how the local government is taking away their public urban space artwork and are having to travel abroad to get their artwork noticed.

2016-04-22-1461319608-8960000-justiceforjaunJPG-thumbBecause of this, Barcelona is bursting with stencil work. Instalments of objects and pre-made artwork. Unless you create in the suburbs or have been commissioned on private property, your work needs to be efficient, otherwise you will be given a €3000 fine and the heart wrenching abolishment of your artwork.

After the well publicised death of local business man Juan Andrés Benítez, who died in Police Custody in 2013, the public cried out for more safe spaces within the city.

A large open space was opened for the locals, with community gardens and an open air cinema. The walls surrounding the space are nothing short of a collaboration masterpiece by graffiti artists worldwide. Barcelona’s ‘fun, happy and childlike’ graffiti style has illuminated this quarter of the city and filled it with colour, bold statements, identity and safety.

Globally recognizable characters such as Pez and Xupet Negre draw in both the connoisseurs and the curious, while the next generation of artists continue to fly the Barcelona flag abroad. Barcelona-based spray painters, sculptors, stencilists and muralists are now decorating urban spaces all around the globe.

2016-04-22-1461319739-483487-btoy-thumbEL Xupet Negre, which means ‘The Black Pacifier’ in Catalan, is another of Barcelona’s most famous street artists. He came up with his distinctive logo in 1989, and it has been found drawn, painted and pasted all over the city, attracting world wide recognition and fame throughout the 1990s and, like many of his contemporaries, he soon progressed from a world of illicit tagging and late-night creative escapades to the production of commissioned pieces and ‘live’ painting performances at galleries and festivals worldwide.

Xupet Negre has been less active since the mid-2000s, however, he remains a hugely influential figure in Barcelona’s rise to becoming one of the world’s best-known street art hotspots. Btoy Andrea Michaelson, who works professionally as Btoy, is intrigued and inspired by strong women, from early flappers to the present day.

Hopefully these artists will continue to inspire the artistic world and continue to give the city its beautifully vibrant character that resonates in every other aspect of its culture. Thank you to I learnt more on this tour than I ever learnt in School and Nina Bumbalkova my travelling companion for her amazing pictures.

Post by Gia. Gia is a Public Speaker, Actor. Contributor and Writer