The tropical climates, miles of beautiful beaches, exotic food, great night life and much more have drawn foreigners to South America for decades. But that’s not all there is to see nowadays. Over the past several years, the street art scene in the continent has emerged in areas like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Medellín and Bogotá with these cities becoming street art havens. We’ve broken down the scene by destination.
Rio de Janeiro
In Rio de Janeiro, you don’t have to stray too far from the airport to get a taste of the city’s booming street art scene. Graffiti has been here for decades, and the tags scrawled on nearly every street corner are a testament to this. However, after Law 706/707 was enacted in 2009, which decriminalized the production of street art on buildings whose owners allowed artists to decorate them, there has been a decrease in the less attractive “tagging” graffiti (the name used to describe the simplest form of street art, which acts as the artist’s signature) and an increase in the artistic murals and paintings that now define the public art scene in Rio. Although the tags are still there, you can’t walk even a few blocks without seeing a mural or two, and people are taking notice: artists around the world are agreeing that Rio de Janeiro is becoming the next Mecca of the street art movement.
São Paulo is not far behind Rio when it comes to murals. There is undoubtedly a tagging issue here as well, but the area is being redeemed by some amazing work done by locals. A tag-team of twin brothers, who appropriately call themselves Os Gemeos (twins in Portuguese), have been painting murals in and around the city for years, and have since graduated to mainly international work in Europe, Asia, and North America. Before expanding, however, they were working towards making their city a little more lively and spontaneous with their artwork. They are famous for their images of people, with murals ranging in size from a few feet tall to the entire sides of a building. These colorful and creative works are considered fine art to even the snobbiest of artists around the globe, and they are only gaining more and more positive attention. Alongside artists like Os Gemeos, there are many less successful, but arguably just as talented, artists who have popped up since the city enacted the 6Emeia Project, a campaign advocating the beautification of São Paulo through street art. This project commends the commissioning of street art of all kinds throughout the city, from wheat-paste posters to stickers and stencils, and of course murals. The project is making the city more interesting and diverse looking, and is pushing the city in a positive direction, including somewhat stimulating the local economy through graffiti tours hosted by locals from the scene.
The Colombian people have been using spray paint to get their ideas and messages across for some time now. The revolutionaries used this medium to express their dissatisfaction with the government, and the less fortunate have used it to try to convey to their leaders what needs to be addressed. Recently, however, the street art scene has been steering more towards artistic freedom and expression. With graffiti crews like Excusado Printsystem emerging throughout Colombia, it won’t be long before the country is ranked amongst the top contenders of the street art world as well. Excusado Printsystem is a group of four friends who specialize in colorful murals and posters that can be seen around Medellín, Bogotá, and their neighboring regions. They have been one of a few teams pioneering the movement, and they have definitely taken the once primarily political art form and transformed it into something much more than that. Now, it’s not so foreign to be walking around the streets of Colombia and run into a colorful mural every now and then, and it will only become more common with time. This growth in murals and street art of all kinds has also prompted the locals of Columbia to start graffiti tours to take travelers around the town and show them who is doing what in the street art scene.
Buenos Aires is without a doubt one of the more popular travel destinations in South America, and they too have a street art scene that should be given some credit. Just walking around the city, it’s no mystery that there is a huge art scene here, and although the styles are very different than that of other cities, the graffiti in Buenos Aires rivals that of many neighborhoods in New York City. Street artists around the globe have taken notice of this, and have begun coming to the area to partake in the explosion of expression. Italian artist, Blu is among one of the more famous artists to recently visit Buenos Aires and leave his mark. He painted an entire building-side featuring hundreds of people with a seemingly endless Argentinean flag wrapped around their heads, covering their eyes. Above them stands an all black figure with the presidential sash across his chest, commanding the blinded citizens. Arguably the most famous street artist in the world, Banksy also came to the area recently and left a few of his creative stencils for the people to take in, the most famous of which is the rebel throwing a bouquet of flowers at a tank, which can be seen in Banksy’s books and on street art blogs everywhere. The locals are doing amazing things too, with names like Lean Frizzera and Ene Ene decorating the bustling Porteño neighborhoods with murals ranging from life-size images to works reaching well over 8 stories tall. The street art scene in Buenos Aires is in fact so popular, that there is also another graffiti tour there called Graffiti Mundo that travelers can take by getting on a bus and being taken to the street art hotspots around the city. These are only a few of the key players and points making the capital city of Argentina a street art center-point in South America.
Argentina, Bogotá, Brazil, Buenos Aires, Colombia, Medellín, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo