Rebellion and freedom of expression were firmly embraced in Spain following the end of Franco’s dictatorship. Both Catalans and the creatives who visit Barcelona continue to be inspired by the protest culture and embrace their civil liberties, resulting in the bright expressions of street art that spiral across the city.
La Carbonería, Carrer del Comte d’Urgell. (Photo by Roisin McAuley)
Recently acknowledged in the top ten graffiti art destinations worldwide, Barcelona’s painters tag the streets with bold patterns and delicate illustrations; expressing political voices and contemporary ideas through their creations. There has been a significant rise in the anti- government slogans and messages that now appear on the city’s walls, motivated by the divisions between the Catalans and national Spanish Government, promoting disobedience and evidencing the independentistas’ revolt. For street art lovers, photographers and the artists themselves, the nature of craft means there is little guarantee on exactly what will be found on the concrete canvases of the most exciting locations for street art detailed below.
Decorating the facade of abandoned coal factory turned squat, until dwellers eviction in 2014, La Carbonería now lies empty with the its colourful but fading exterior decoration difficult to miss in a neighbourhood lined by concrete, beige residencies. The coal factory, which roots itself in the corner of Urgell and Floridablanca, is the oldest building in the Eixample district and has obtained protection from demolition due to its classification as being of historic and artistic interest. Thus, the building and the colourful hot air balloon, complete with skull and crossbones permanently emblazoned on it, is one of few pieces of graffiti that will go nowhere soon.
Carrer del Comte d’Urgell 30, Eixample
Perched above Barcelona, artists head to the Carmel viewpoint to get involved in street art that goes beyond painting and showcases the street culture and music that accompanies graffiti. Carmel inspires artists with a panoramic view of Barcelona and a relaxing atmosphere that it manages to preserve by being removed from the hub of the city itself.
Jardins de les 3 Xemeneies, Avenue del Paraŀlel. (Photo by Roisin McAuley)
Below the three chimneys that dominate the skyline of Parallel is an entrenched arrangement of graffiti ridden walls. Creating a skate and graffiti park that is a haven for painters and photographers, these walls are involved in the Wallspot
project that provides five walls as the foundations for legal painting and which can be signed up to use via an online sign-up system or mobile app. Street art enthusiasts regularly visit the spot alongside the artists; the deep respect and etiquette that exists between the painters means creations often stay safe a little after completion, though their exhibition on these walls is not assured for long. From professionals, and well-known artists such as El Pez (the Fish) to amateurs this location is inclusive for all who wish to check it out or get involved.
Avenue del Paraŀlel 49, El Poble-Sec
As contemporary designs are regularly created, developed and removed, one that remains fixed is the mural of flamenco star Carmen Amaya which adorns the walls at the bottom of Carrer de les Escoles in the region of Les Clots. Standing firmly against the changing city, the portrait of Amaya is important to the locals; Amaya is the dancer who exported the dance and style of Barcelona Flamenco around the world. Crafted by the city’s renowned artists BTOY and Uriginal, the artists reference the oppression of flamenco that the Gitano’s faced under Franco and combine it with the modern difficulties those who are involved with the street art craft face.
Carrer de les Escoles 23, Les Clots
Once the industrial district of Barcelona, the barrio of Poblenou homes artists and startups in its unused factories and is making its name as the up-and-coming epicentre for the arts. Whilst the other barrios might exhibit just one stand out location for graffiti, the walls of Poblenou are a gallery of street art that bleeds into the neighbouring streets and facades at every opportunity. The derelict buildings are now canvases for graffiti artists and illustrators to wash with new life. With a never ending supply of vacant spaces to develop ideas onto, Poblenou provides visitors with the chance to discover new work. The barrio also takes part in Street Art Festival that combats the outlawing of graffiti as vandalism by providing space for the creative community to work in.
At its centre the Parc del Centre del Poblenou is one of a high number painting spots meaning it is it ideal to take a self guided street art tour from here. Alternatively, organised tours can be found with Street Art Barcelona and include options with varying ideas, transport and focuses.
In Gracia, local artist known as Axe Colours is regularly witnessed designing the shutters of businesses with pop culture characters. His rainbow palette styles faces from Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead and challenges the legality of the medium. Local councils previously attempted to clean up the city, fining artists and those who employ them to style their shutters. The bright walls and designed exteriors that fill the intimate streets of Gracia add to the the district’s character and appeal; the fresh paintings in the neighbourhood call into question the success of the council’s clean up strategy.
Some of the regular portraits by Axe Colours can be visited on streets: Carrer de Verntallat, Carrer de Bruniquer and Carrer de Montmany. The artist is committed to touching up and changing work in the same locations so it is easy to spot creations in these locations.
Tributo a Joan Miró, Calle de Riereta. (Photo by Roisin McAuley)
An iconic single piece of graffiti, Tributo a Joan Miró nods to the work of Catalan artist Joan Miró and celebrates the creative roots of the city. In the Raval district, the large mural stretches across the corner of Calle de Riereta and Sant Pau, near the bottom of Rambla de Raval. Created by collective of street artists Sixe Paredes, the creation was made in collaboration with city wide project Tribute to Joan Miró, initiated by the Fundació Miró.
Carrer de la Riereta & Carrer de Sant Pau, El Raval