The 5 Best Cities For Street Art

Incredible murals around the globe

Eduardo Kobra’s interpretatie van de foto met de Victory-over-Japan Day Kiss (Manhattan, 25th St op 10th Ave) © -Jérôme-

From being considered vandalism to fine art, street art has made it a long way in the public’s opinion. Still being true to their origins, street art continues to make social and political commentaries across the globe. Here are some of the coolest cities where you can stamp your passport and take that “insta-worthy” picture while also getting to know the country’s history through murals.

1. São Paulo, Brazil

Being the biggest city in South America, it is predictable that the city is full of urban art. This form of art emerged in São Paulo during the ’70s as a medium of revolution and protest against the military dictatorship that controlled the country from 1964 to 1985. Today, Brazilian street artists are recognized all over the globe for their skills. However, public administration is still not supportive of the local artists and insists to erase the murals. What makes the scenario even more active is the constant fight between the artists’ colors and the gray paint used to erase it. It is clear that the contrast between public appreciation of the colors in the city and the constant effort of the city’s government to keep this form of art marginalized.

A famous artist on the scenario is Kobra, who today has 500 murals in Brazil and 17 around the globe. Coming from the peripheries of São Paulo, he started his career on the vandalism side of street art to develop his own particular style, combining vivid colors with historic and ethnic images. His last big work was the Olympics mural on Rio de Janeiro.

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Street art has emerged in Bangkok over the past few years as a new and vibrant way to share creativity and social or humorous messages. The art form is still in the process of moving out of the underground scene, struggling to gain public acceptance by painting gallery walls and coffee shops. Bangkok just hosted their first large street art festival, BUKRUK (which translates to invasion), in partnership with European artists to further the acceptance of street art. The street art scene became more active in 2014 when people were urging for the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s resignation. Because of the political nature at the beginning of the art movement, the general view of street art is still not very welcoming. Artists in the scene argue that there is still an image of rough work, and that street art is done by uncommitted artists.

Take Alex Face as an example. Face is an architect that found different uses for buildings with his art. His social conscience is very visible in his work. Inspired by his baby daughter, he created the character Baby Mardi, a baby who dresses as a bunny, to comment on the worries of the next generation.

3. Los Angeles, United States

The City of Angels has a very long story with street-generated movements, such the skateboarding culture that made their mark on Venice beach streets on the ’70s. The subculture of the city is something every LA local is proud of, but this was not always the case. In the ’60s and ’70s the city was the “mural capital of the world” according to veteran artist Kent Twichell, but government measures were quick to remove the murals because they believed them to be vandalism or gang-affiliated tagging. LA even had a legal ban on public murals that lasted 10 years and only just ended in 2013. Being one of the most diverse cities in the United States, LA artists, especially after the election, used street art to share their messages of ethnic struggles, political tensions and racial inequity.

Jules Muck, known as Muckrock, is a Venice based artist. She began her carrier as a teenager in Europe, moving to New York and then Venice Beach. Her work has a unique style, and she claims to like to paint things she isn’t supposed to. She is known for the use of the color green as a skin tone, especially on her work around Venice beach.

4. Berlin, Germany

Art critic Emilie Trice has called Berlin “the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world”. The street art scenario started around the ’90s as a consequence of years of fear, tyranny, and oppression led by many historical traumas and kept alive by the separation of people enforced by the Cold War. Initially striking as a form of protest, street art transformed oppressive walls into a vehicle for political change and personal freedom. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city went through an artistic revolution. Instead of taking violence actions the community manifested themselves by images, striking phrases and bold colors and elevating the so-called “graffiti” to the level of art. This created a big industry for street art in Berlin, even though the activity isn’t exactly legal. However, the city’s title of UNESCO’s City of Design has kept authorities from doing much to obstruct the most “bombed” city in Europe. The city’s administration even promotes festivals and supports the activity.

Take El Bocho as an example, who is known for being one of Berlin’s more romantic street artists. The Spanish-born artist is distant from political commentary. His art is designed to improve Berlin’s cityscape beauty. He uses the paste-up graffiti style, meaning that he paints brown packing paper and then glues them on an urban surface. His style consists of fluid, cartoon-like drawings of women’s faces with surreal hair colors.

5. Cape Town, South Africa

Emerging on the ’80s, street art is a widespread feature of the Mother City. Cape Town’s street art started in the Cape Flats, an area where black people were forced to move following the Group Areas Act. It gave people a platform to express their outrage over the Apartheid oppression and discriminatory laws. Even today, Cape town’s street art is often closely related to freedom and equality highlighting current social issues in South Africa.

In 1988, nearing the end of the apartheid, Falko One began his career. Starting as an underground artist, Falko today is considered one of the artists responsible for the development of graffiti in South Africa. During the ’90s he was responsible for creating a network with Europe’s industry veterans to exchange experiences. In 1996, he started Battle With Vapours, the first graffiti competition in the country. His self-described style is an interpretation of the world around him. Falko One is influenced by his social and political observations, but never imposes his views on the communities he works in. Falko One uses vivid colors, patterns, and often drawings of elephants to create fantasy and poesy on the streets of Cape Town.

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