Above: Cropped section of large mural by Primo, in Villa Urquiza, Buenos Aires
One of the things that we most enjoyed about Buenos Aires was its incredible street art scene. According to Matt Fox-Tucker (founder of BA Street Art), street art is accepted and supported by the local community as a legitimate art form. There is no need for artists to obtain a permit from authorities and the only requirement is to seek consent from the property owner. This freedom attracts street artists to Buenos Aires from all over the world.
BA Street Art was founded to support the growth of street art in Buenos Aires. In addition to running tours, the organisation works with artists to commission murals, helps to develop collaborative relationships between artists and property owners, runs workshops and operates an art gallery featuring work by Latin American street artists. The organisation is working particularly hard to develop the barrios of Villa Urquiza and Coghlan as centres for street art in the city. During Argentina’s military dictatorship many buildings in these neighbourhoods were abandoned or damaged, but over the past 10 years (in large part, thanks to the efforts of BA Street Art) these same buildings have been reclaimed as spaces for art – to spectacular effect.
On the day of our tour we took the subway to Colegiales and met up with our tour guide, Anderson, a Brazilian architect who had recently moved to Buenos Aires. We were joined by two young French women (medical students on holiday), a tall, enigmatic Peruvian man with a silent German companion, and an older couple from Mexico City, both psychologists. After coffee and introductions, we took the train even further west to Villa Urquiza where the tour began with the stunning mural below. This surrealist mural was created by Martin Ron and at 412 m² it’s the largest mural in Buenos Aires. To give you some idea of scale, I’m 162 (5’4″) which makes me as tall as the top of the skateboard wheel. BA Street Art organised this project, which was painted over 16 days (for more details about the project, read this):
On the building next door is another huge mural painted by the Italian artist, Blu. The mural is nearly 10 years old now and is decaying badly, but it is typical of Blu’s mind-twisting work (which reminds me of Tool music videos). It depicts a gigantic baby with an interior world that reveals the machinations of a bustling factory; a metaphor for the corruption of innocence by exploitative humanity:
Few artworks were as overtly political as Blu’s however, and most were created to add beauty, colour and imagination to the city streets. The picture below captures an excerpt of a large mural painted by five artists, with each character symbolising an artist. The Donald Duck-esque character below represents the Spanish artist Grito:
The collage below shows works by Ice (the 3D rhino), Luxor (the red bird) and by Primo (the young African tribeswoman). I found the work by Primo to be especially compelling – the depth of expression in the eyes of the woman is amazing. Primo also painted the mural of the African woman at the beginning of this post. I’ve cropped that image to show the most beautiful parts of the mural: the soulful eyes, smooth skin, and the impression of an ivy plant which happened to be growing on the wall at the time the painting was created.
One of my favourite murals was the one below of the dancing couple by Italian artist Alice Pasquini. The building itself was fascinating with the angular shapes, rough plasterwork and trailing plants, and the colours and sweeping lines of the artwork complement this canvas beautifully. To the left of this mural is another piece, “Heartbeat”, by the Argentinian artist, Alfredo Segatori.
Our patient guide, Anderson, kept the group entertained with stories and managed to keep us moving despite our predilection for taking photos. Here we stopped at a mural by Nomada while Anderson provided details about various painting techniques used by street artists. One DIY method involved lodging a dog hair into the nozzle of the can, which allows the artist to achieve a particular effect.
We were thrilled to see a large and beautiful mural by Australian artist, Fintan Magee, who grew up in Brisbane. His murals and paintings often focus on environmental issues and the displacement of populations, and he applies a technique that looks like water dripping from the artwork. This particular mural references the 2011 Brisbane floods (which he and his family experienced first hand) as well as the devastating floods in La Plata and Buenos Aires in 2013:
Our last stop on the tour took in a long wall with multiple murals painted on it. This one by El Marian shows a homeless man and his dog, perfectly capturing their deep bond:
The tour with BA Street Art was fabulous and I highly recommend contacting them if you are planning a trip to Buenos Aires. We found the tour so inspiring that when we ended up with an extra half day in the city (due to missing our flight to Mendoza) we taxied to Palermo Soho, another area of the city known for street art. I can’t tell you anything about the pieces that we saw there, but if anyone can identify the artists, please let me know:
I can identify the artist for the final image below – Triangulo Dorado, a trio of street artists who conveniently signed this mural. For more photos of street art in Santiago de Chile, click here. For general travel notes regarding Buenos Aires, click here.
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The street art in the Buenos Aires looks amazing! You must be had such a great trip!
It was amazing, a truely mind-opening experience. Wish that we could have stayed for longer!
Buenos Aires is on our list and so too is this street art tour – fabulous. Thanks for the insight.
I hope that you are able to go one day Lucy, it’s such an interesting city. I’ve already had one friend who has been on the street art tour thanks to this post! They loved it too.
Oooh….I don’t know how I missed this earlier! Love it. I’ve not been to BA (kicking myself right now for having turned down an opportunity in late 2015 due to personal issues)…but you’ve made me want to go there now! I’m also a fan of Fintan Magee, after stumbling on his work in Ireland a couple of years ago (without knowing at the time he was a Brisbane boy). And I’m just back from Melbourne, where the street art is wonderful. I did a tour there…blog coming! Thanks for sharing these stunning photos!
Hi Lee the street art in BA is so good but our last SA stop in Valparaiso was even better I think. Still have to write the blog about that one (yikes, it was six months ago now!). I look forward to seeing your Melbourne street art photos soon 😊
Love this, the artwork is so beautiful and vibrant. Reminds me of the murals in the Mission District of San Francisco on Balmy St. and Clarion Alley. I toured those several years ago. Well worth a look if you ever get to San Fran. – Kat
Actually we have been talking about visiting San Fran for ages – almost went there this year instead of South America. I’m sure we’ll get there one of these days – knowing that there is great street art there gives us even more reason to go. Thank you!
Love this post Chez. This art form is so brilliantly anti establishment, and just so damned brilliant. I always hope somehow that the artists can support themselves without the constraints of agents and galleries. Having said that we are off to see the Banksy exhibition in Melbourne this week ….. I saw his work in the streets of Bristol and it was great and relevant. I also saw some pieces in two galleries in the UK and it seemed so ……. wrong. The rage was missing.
How much longer does the Banksy exhibition run for? We would love to see it. I have wondered about the gallery context though – whether it would lessen the impact. How absolutely wonderful that you have seen some of his work ‘for real’! I just love the democratic nature of street art (accessible to all) and I also like how the artworks are exposed to the elements and change over time. Just wish that we had more street art here in Brisbane.
Finishes in Melbourne on 22 January 2017. Have you got time to get there?
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Informative article! Strolling around in Buenos Aires streets and discover street art… bring me back so much memories! Great blog!
Writing this brought back many memories for me too. We were there in June, which feels like so long ago now. Such a fascinating city!