Anyone who’s knowledgeable of art is already aware of the evolution of street art, to pop art, to high art, and back to the streets again. Street art has always managed to maintain the credibility and sincerity that the fine art found in galleries is often criticized for lacking (or losing once it becomes popular). Street art strives to be unpretentious, accessible, and free. And not just “free” as in “liberated”, but also as in “doesn’t cost you a single cent to go see.” So when you’re talking about traveling on a budget, what better way to see art and learn about local culture than taking in some street art?
Here are 9 of the best cities to visit for street art (and a few helpful resources):
The Aussies have actually learned to embrace street art as a celebration of culture, and even founded the Stencil Art Prize in 2009 — which was originally an annual cash award for an Aussie artist using a stencil art (a long-standing street art technique). One artist to look out for in Melbourne is Ha-Ha (real name Regan Tamanui), a famous “rolling” artist (who uses paint rollers to apply wheatpaste signs) that’s been working in the city since the early 2000’s. A recurring theme in his work is infamous Australian bushraider Ned Kelly.
São Paulo, Brazil
The local artists of Brazil most populated city are big into murals — and into BIG murals, with lots of collaboration. The neighborhoods are tightly packed, but the city moves at a fast pace, so it’s good to know where you plan to go, rather than wander. You should definitely plot a course using Arte Fora do Museu, an interactive digital map of street art and other cultural wonders.
New York City, USA
Considered by many to be the undisputed king of street art since way back in the 1970s, Graffiti artists have long flocked to New York City. The Big Apple is an inspiring a host of amazing street art creations. While Brooklyn tends to be the epicenter of graffiti wall art, you will find funky pieces in every borough. Popular street art locations in New York include the Bronx Wall of Fame on East 173rd Street, the Big Pun Memorial Mural, the Bowery Graffiti Wall, and the Audobon Mural Project.
The historic Portuguese capital of Lisbon is home to some of the world’s most interesting displays of street art featuring both local and global artists. Any tours of the city’s street art scene should start in the Mouraria and head towards to the Bairro Alto. Visitors should also want to carve out time to check out the Graca Literary Walk. The quaint cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, and rolling countryside hills of the city make the perfect backdrop for impromptu art creations.
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For a city like Berlin, street art is frequently an avenue for expressing its rich and often tormented history It is no surprise to learn that the best street art in Germany’s capital city can be found along the remnants of the Berlin Wall, otherwise known as the East Side Gallery. Stretching 1.3 kilometers, this section of the wall presents a cohesive message of freedom and unity through the numerous works of graffiti art. Strolling along the wall and looking at the art can be an emotional and sobering experience for many people.
The capital city of Santiago is the place to be for street art in the South American country of Chile. The trendy Barrio Bellavista neighborhood is a great place to take pictures and take in the city’s iconic graffiti displays. While graffiti is officially illegal in Santiago, that does not stop artists from working their magic. In fact, it can be challenging to find large walls that have not been filled with street art. The street art of Santiago offers everything from stunning collages of color to political statements.
Mexico City, Mexico
Most of street art’s stigma stems from the fact that, well, most of it is technically illegal. What was long considered the work of vandals was seen as a public nuisance and a pain in-the-wallet for small business owners who constantly had to pay to paint over tags, stickers, and other non-commissioned art on their property. But when the local government approves a large-scale collaborative mural project, even more conservative citizens can’t complain. Case in point: All City Canvas is an art collective in Mexico City that began in 2012, with 8 well-known artists creating huge city murals. They promote local artists, as well as creatives from all over the world, film documentaries, and develop research into the genre.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Unlike the rules governing street art in Santiago, creativity is encouraged all throughout Buenos Aires. You will find a little bit of everything in Buenos Aires, including tributes to famous Argentinian soccer players, political commentary, and paintings of natural elements. The best places to take in the street art in Buenos Aires include Colegiales, the Centro Ministerio de Diseno, and Caminito. The city’s many colorful festivals are the impetus for several of the various street art installations that dot the landscape of this lively South American city.
London is the world’s prime destination for cheap flights packed with anyone interested in contemporary graffiti, which is not surprising given the city’s reputation as an edgy metropolis. The most famous street art artist in London is undoubtedly Banksy. He uses his creations to get you thinking or to make you laugh. There is always a message in his street art if you look hard enough. To see London’s street art, you’ll want to pay a visit to Square Mile, Camden, Brick Lane, and Shoreditch for the best photo opportunities of the city’s vibrant street art scene.