I just had the coolest day. And I have a lot of cool days, so that’s saying something. I went on a Street Art Tour with Buenos Aires Street Art.
To see graffiti and murals is an unavoidable daily occurrence. Public art enriches the already stimulating urban landscape that is the streets of Buenos Aires. The images change frequently; the walls of the city are constantly curated. Sometimes street art surprises for its completeness or repulses for its vulgarity or garishness. Pedestrians ponder the difference between art and graffiti, the definition of art itself and its perpetual evolution. If there is such a thing as evolution.
Once I saw a street artist painting a portrait on a small wall in Palermo Soho. I thought it was great and I told her so. She seemed very shy to accept the compliment, in the same way Argentines sometimes respond when you tell them that you like Buenos Aires with ‘en serio, te gusta?’ (Really, you like it?)
When I found out about Buenos Aires Street Art, I was very excited to learn more about this public art phenomena that keeps my inner-art lover indulged. I was also thrilled to have a chance to practice photography on a beautiful subject matter. I booked a tour and researched the location of the meeting place on a map, as it was a few neighborhoods away from my beaten track.
This tour blew my mind. My world expanded by visiting three entire neighborhoods that I never otherwise would have never explored. (What is there to do in Chacaritas? Seriously, I couldn’t even identify Villa Urquiza on a map.) I was exposed to an entire artistic movement, community and zeitgeist that I’d only seen a glimpse of in my Palermo bubble. Apparently, I need to get out more.
The tour commenced with a long walk through a park in Saavedra, where a retaining wall has been appropriated as a canvas. I was trying to play it cool, and had it not been for the overcast weather, I would have been uncontrollably giddy with delight of clear references to Jacque-Louis David, Egon Schiele and Walt Disney. This is living art history. The tour lasts between two to three hours, depending if one (me) insists on taking the long route. Wear your walking shoes.
Matt, the guide, taught us about local and global trends in street art. His friendships with the artists themselves, philosophical ponderings on the movement and ability to speak on current events, themes and trends provoked an open conversation about many of the artworks. We learned about the artists themselves and what inspired them. There were fascinating background stories as to how a particular wall space was procured, or previous works of art that had since been painted over. The city was our museum and Matt was the most engaging and knowledgeable docent. When it comes to street art, this guy, and I mean this literally and figuratively, wrote the book.
My kind group wasn’t impatient when I slowed down the tour with my need to photograph everything. I wouldn’t have lingered had I only known there was so much to see. I was fascinated to learn what tagging and stencils are and discuss issues of public and private spaces, legal and illegal ‘art’, and issues of respect between the artists themselves and the spaces they are redefining as public.
We hiked the streets of Villa Urquiza to uncover hidden treasures painted on the walls of private homes. I felt like a tourist in this foreign neighborhood. I saw something new and reflected on the constant newness of street art, and its inherent nature of change and relation to its environment.
Here were a few of my favorite pieces:
When I recommend something on M.B.A, I sometimes try to make it sound unbiased, but as I reflected during the tour: there is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to art, so why not wear subjectivity on the proverbial sleeve of the blog and just tell you: You have to go on this tour. It was so, so, so awesome.