Graffitimundo operate a city tour that explores the vibrant world of street art in Buenos Aires, something that I had noticed on my travels around the city but had no idea of the culture and history behind it. I have seen graffiti in Europe and the United States and it was always something that was just there, I’d never paid any attention to it, it just merged into the background on the sides of trains or hidden under bridges. Graffiti in London tends to revolve around a drab, grey building with big letters on the side explaining exactly who got what inserted where! In Buenos Aires you find entire sides of buildings painted in the most intricate way on a much grander scale with greater imagination and colour; it couldn’t have been done guerrilla style at 2am.
With this in mind I booked myself on a Graffitimundo tour with Sarah and her photographer friend, Aidan McCarthy, as much as anything just to get out of the house on a nice day! As you could probably gather, street art had hardly captured my imagination, while not artistic myself, my family members have owned art galleries and painted and drawn (traditionally) since I was born and I have been dragged kicking and screaming to galleries and exhibitions from a very young age, so perhaps its more accurate to say that I have never really ‘got’ art.
We arrived at the meet up point in front of a house that had been decorated in a huge brightly coloured mural, there were a few other people milling around and soon enough our guide for the day, Kirsty, arrived and directed us all to the house for the start of the tour. She began by introducing us to the history and culture of the street art in Argentina and how it came to be; from political protests during the tumultuous dictatorships, how the graffiti movement in other cities across the world influenced the artists here in the 80’s, to what we see today. Our first house had its entire front face painted in huge caricatures and crazy trippy patterns. The whole thing blew me away, more so when I discovered that artists get consent from the owners before they start and do their painting in the daylight. While still technically illegal, so long as the owners are happy to have it done everyone is left too it.
There is no doubt that it looks cool but I would never imagine anyone back home allowing someone to graffiti their house. Then again, I guess nobody in England wants someone else’s sexual history documented on their wall like a questionnaire at a VD clinic. It was also obvious that a majority of the work had been done using paint rollers, upon further inquiry it was revealed that this is because aerosols had been too expensive so acrylic paint was used, which explained why everything seemed so much brighter. Each artist has a preferred style and medium, one particular artist, Jaz (Franco Fasoli), likes to use tar thinned down with petrol rather than paint, and his drawings are surprisingly lucid for someone who must have spend a majority of his time up a tall ladder off his face on fumes.
We toured round the city visiting various pieces of interest, ranging from the political to the bizarre, from the hand drawn to stencilled – all equally impressive and created with an imagination I could only dream of (you see what I did there?). We also got to pop along to an exhibition an American artist had set up in a gallery, a workshop where 4 of the artists were creating stencils for their next pieces and we finished in a brilliantly decorated graffiti bar, Post Street Bar, that doubles as a gallery. It took 3 hours overall and we covered quite a sizable chunk of the city. I have to include a small sentence about the guide, Kirsty, as she truly made the trip for me. Her enthusiasm for what she was showing us was so infectious it was difficult not to get caught up in it all, she has a romanticised view of all the art and artists and I don’t mean that negatively, her passion for it all held my attention just as much as the amazing pieces we saw and this is coming from someone who has very little interest in the subject matter. It was a great afternoon out and if you have any artistic inclination in you at all you will love it!