Don’t call street art, graffiti! There is a difference. Have you ever walked by a building or been about to arrive by train at a railway station and viewed ugly, indecipherable graffiti which becomes a blight to your eyes? I certainly have and it is not, in my view, pleasant. Street art is often sanctioned or encouraged by local authorities and I, for one, am happy to be able to find it all over the world. One of my favourite street artists, and possibly that of an awful lot of other people, is Banksy, the British mystery artist. He is arguably the most controversial and prolific street artist whose identity is still unknown, even after his work has been found all over the globe for the last 20 or so years. His artwork is often satirical and combines dark humour with implied messages about art, philosophy, and politics. In 2010, Banksy was featured in a movie called Exit Through the Gift Shop. His work can be seen in England, the United States, Canada, Israel, Palestine, Australia, Hong Kong, Greece, France, and a few other countries. So, without further ado, let’s explore some street art around the world that you can enjoy on a Goway vacation.
UK and Europe
London, United Kingdom
Street Art in London is prolific. It boasts a huge range of styles from many different artists. Both local and international street artists have painted the streets of London with a large amount of creative works, from miniature bronze statues to painted murals several stories high. Because the city is so vast, you will, on UK vacations, need to head to places such as Camden, Waterloo (a disused railway tunnel just behind Waterloo Train Station is a haven for street artists after Banksy organized a street art festival there), Soho, Covent Garden, and especially Shoreditch in the East End where you can join a street art tour. Some major works include a celebration of the life of Amy Winehouse in Camden, a mural of David Bowie in Brixton, another of George Michael in Shoreditch, and Prince in Harringay.
Berlin features probably my favourite collection of street art. The East Side Gallery is part of the old Berlin Wall, of which very little remains intact. This section is 1315 metres/4275 feet long on which there are 105 paintings, by artists from all over the world, on display. It is possibly the largest open-air gallery anywhere. They express the hopes for a better and freer future for everyone. Street art can pretty much be found in many other parts of the city as well.
Street art has long been a part of Lisbon’s culture. Until the 18th century, there was a tradition of all-white buildings. After an earthquake in 1755, richer areas began to incorporate colour and tiles into walls and pavements. Now it can be found in many different neighbourhoods on a Portugal vacation. In the historic area of Alfama, you can combine street art viewing with one of the city’s most interesting neighbourhoods. Murals include a series of works on the subject of Fado (melancholy traditional folk music popular in Portugal) and murals of recognized Portuguese writers. In Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo are three buildings with large paintings on their walls. For more information and exhibits on street art in Lisbon, check out this list of various Lisbon urban art galleries.
When on a Slovenia vacation, you will find Ljubljana to be an absolutely charming city, which has been compared to Salzburg, Austria. I accidentally wandered into a neighbourhood called Metelkova and found myself in the midst of a large collection of street art. This area, which was a former military barracks, became occupied by squatters in the early 1990s and over time, people covered every available space with colourful street art. This unusual neighbourhood could be compared to the San Francisco neighbourhood of Haight and Ashbury of the 1960s. If you want more art, you can also visit two bona fide cultural centres here, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Museum of Slovenia.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires has developed a reputation for its large-scale murals and artworks in many of its subway stations and public areas. The first artists started painting in the mid-1990s. One mural, begun in 1994, is the longest mural in Argentina, measuring more than 2000 square metres/21,000 square feet. There are very few restrictions on street art, compared to other world-class cities. There is no need to obtain authorization from the local authority. You just need the consent of the property owner. The non-profit Graffitimundo was opened in 2009 in a studio in the city’s San Telmo neighbourhood. This organization not only helps promote their artists worldwide but also offers street art tours. On top of this, international street art festivals held in Buenos Aires have really encouraged street artists.
Valparaiso is called the “Jewel of the Pacific.” It is a very attractive, bustling hillside port and is also home to some exquisite street art that can be found everywhere. Visitors to the city on a Chile vacation specifically come to see the open-air artworks. The local government supports and promotes street art, and many cafes, restaurants, and bars are happy to have artists use their walls as canvasses. The number of visitors attracted to Valparaiso for its outdoor artwork has led to the development of several well-organized street art tours. The Open-Air Museum has many paintings, murals, and mosaics. This was abandoned due to the dictatorship of General Pinochet, who ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990. However, in 1992 more than 70 artists started a revival.
Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, has a major reputation for street art. It is home to one of the worlds most active and diverse street art cultures which is supported and preserved by local councils. Most of the street art is in the inner neighbourhoods such as Brunswick, Carlton, and Fitzroy. Hosier Lane is a major centre, not far from the centre of Melbourne, offering an abundance of amazing and colourful street art. Melbourne is known as the “stencil capital,” and the first stencil festival in the world was held here in 2004. It has become an annual event and held for 10 days every year involving exhibitions, live demonstrations, artist talks, panel discussions, workshops, master classes, and street art-related films.
Cape Town, South Africa
Over time, Cape Town has given rise to a number of street artists. Many works are commissioned by the city. One street artist is Falko One, known as Cape Town’s “Banksy.” With a career spanning three decades, Falko One has been influential in the development of South Africa’s street art scene and has travelled around the world to share his extraordinary artworks. To quote Falko One, “A lot of street art initially had a political connotation to it. We kind of all just made it up but we were doing it as a social statement, trying to make a change in our society because it was still apartheid then.” A good place to see street art on a South Africa vacation is the suburb of Woodstock, with its trendy coffee shops, cafes, and artist studios. The majority of the art on display in the streets has some type of message, from nature conservation to social justice. District Six was an impoverished but lively community of predominantly coloured people. It was once known as the soul of Cape Town. Today, generations of people who lived in District Six have nurtured the many artists who describe this suburb in literature, art, and music. It is known for its street art.
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
A compact city located on Penang Island, Georgetown’s street art can be discovered just by walking around its colonial avenues while on a Malaysia vacation. A project in 2012, funded by the Penang State Government, was undertaken to liven up the streets, and that was the start of it. The works can be found on the walls of 18th Century houses and on the waterfront, depicting various historical and modern characteristics of the city. Ernest Zacharevic, an artist from Lithuania, was commissioned to create a street art project in Georgetown called Mirrors George Town, which consisted of several large-scale murals in different locations in the old town. There are about 9 murals in total by Zacharevic.
A renowned French street artist who is a regular visitor to Phuket is responsible for a large amount of the street art found here on a Thailand vacation. His best-known piece is the portrait of a young Thai girl, painted on a wall in the historic Soi Romanee, in old Phuket Town. Other artists took part in the Phuket Street Art project and display their creativity on the various buildings and walls of Phuket Town. The different works reflect the rich culture and lifestyle of Phuket’s residents.
In closing, I must express that the above is just a fraction of what exists in this world, but it is a start and can easily be combined with many sightseeing adventures found on many Goway vacations.