Street Art in Barcelona Street Art in Barcelona

Street Art in Barcelona

A fine line between defacing and beautifying, Street Art in Barcelona is at the center of an ongoing battle with the local government and its artist.
CulturaSense categoriaZPortada Izquierda 15 noviembre, 2020 user5 0
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Famous for being home to some of Europe’s most renowned artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Antoni Gaudi, Barecelona has many museums and UNESCO world heritage sites. However art in Barcelona has left the traditional enclosed confines of buildings. Doodles, stickers, paintings, quotes cover Barcelona’s walls. Colours brighten nearly every street corner. A mix of old and new, Barcelona is home to a thriving street art scene. From the Gothic Quarter to Poblenou, it has become one of the biggest collections of street art in Europe. However, graffiti is nothing new. The act of writing and scribbling on private property has been around for thousands of years. Romans and Mayans would inscribe messages and drawings on public walls.


The Golden Age of Street Art

With permissive laws, the Golden Age for street art in Barcelona started in 2000. Barcelona developed into Europe’s street art “capital”. From Banksy, Above, Nomad, Pez, Miss Van, Space Invader, London Police, Dave the Chimp, a community of local and international artists was born. Barcelona’s street art mouvement moved away from old school graffiti. Artists were not only from Hip Hop and Rap countermovements. In addition you could now find graphic designers and Fine Arts students.

Jorge Luis Marzo, a catalunian art historian, explains “Street art is about expression, creativity, freedom, asking and raising questions, protesting, analysing and even beautifying. A way to step beyond convention. A city’s walls are a canvas to anyone. Graffiti and street art have always had a history of being influenced by the present political and social issues. A lot of people have painted on the walls and buildings in their cities as a form of anonymous political protest.”

Image of street art in Poblenou

Street Art wall in Poblenou


End of an era

With the arrival of a new mayor in 2006, Jordi Hereu, there was a radical change as tougher laws were put into place. In january 2006, Barcelona’s City Government approved a law that criminalized street art in the city. Consequently a zero-tolerance law started. With mass tourism developing rapidly in the region, the City Government wanted to preserve the historical heritage of Barcelona’s architecture. Street art has often been associated with deliberate rebellion and provocativeness, it has a vandalist label.

To put an end to the idea that Barcelone is a town where you could do things you weren’t allowed to do elsewhere. (…) Transgression is part of the movement so there is no point in finding a common point and dialoguing.

Therefore most street art was painted over, for instance Keith Haring’s famous mural. Painting in Barcelona became harder than in any other northern european cities where street art had always been illegal. Only one wall in downtown Barcelona exists where it is possible to ask permission to authorities to paint legally.


A war of colours

As a result the government’s decision to illegalise street art, obviously did not go down well with Bracelona’s artist community. “They treat public spaces as if there was some kind of given law and they are the guardians, there is only one group of people who control the vision of the city. (…) Street art improves people’s lives, what we see has an affect on us. It also has an economical impact because it attracts more tourists.” explained famous street artist Xupet Negre in one of Goho Estudio‘s latest documentaries. “It has gone from a place full of colour to a sad and grey place with much less interesting tourism. (…) The ones who have money are the ones who can use public spaces, they fill it with their logos, publicity, political campaigns. Money gives you the right to have that public spot.” 

The question of space and ownership is central to graffiti’s history. Its evolution has gone hand in hand with counterculture scenes. While these mouvements raised their anti-establishment voices, graffiti artists likewise challenged established boundaries of public property, reclaimed walls and publicity boards.

As a result the Urban Landscape Institute (BCN) spends 4 million euros per year on its cleaning campaign. Barcelona’s walls have become a battlefield for some kind of war between painting, covering up and painting again.




Lola Erin Ramsden

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