Archives for category: street art Ciutat Vella

August this year turned out to be a lot busier than the last, work-wise, which means I wasn’t able to make my annual trip to the Sants Festival, which takes place just after the one here in Gràcia.

However, I did have some great shots from an outing in July, where I found, among other things, a TVBOY pasteup of the Barça star Coutinho, and a crazy stoned version of the Trix Rabbit.

Barcelona-based Italian artist TVBoy has struck again, this time in three different locations in the center of Barcelona, for his paste-up series entitled “The Monsters of Politics”. The three “monsters” include three of the biggest names in Spanish politics: President and leader of the PSOE (socialist) party Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Ciudadanos (Citizen’s) party Albert Rivera, and leader of the Partido Popular (People’s Party) Pablo Casado. All three are relatively young, charming, and eager to lead Spain out of the current constitutional conflict with Catalonia. All three are also plagued with their own problems, which are depicted in TVBoy’s portraits.

Pedro Sanchez, who became president after a no-confidence vote ousted previous president Mariano Rajoy due to rampant corruption within his Partido Popular, is depicted as a superman, who has the flag of the Second Spanish Republic, rather than the normal “S” for superman. It seems to suggest that while Sanchez is ostensibly a strong figure, he also represents the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), which is traditionally anti-monarchist. Sanchez, however, much to the chagrin of many party fundamentalists, and many Catalans, seems to be quite comfortable with the current status quo of the constitutional monarchy. He’s also a superhero whose strength depends on some very tenuous coalitions, especially those with Catalan parties in favor of self-determination, a red line that if crossed would be political suicide.

Albert Rivera is the leader of the C’s party, which is the youngest of the three political formations. The C’s party started in Barcelona around 2006-7 and seemed to me as a newcomer to be an answer to the rising tide of self-determination sentiments among the population of Catalonia. The party represents itself neither left nor right, and is a member of the neo-liberal ALDE alliance. So, on the surface, they would most likely be considered center-right. However, they are also one of the parties who have come out strongest against the idea of Catalan independence, and as a result have attracted many followers who could best be compared with the alt-right ideology in the US. They have organized several pro-unity rallies in Barcelona, and while the majority of attendees are peaceful, there is almost always a notable presence of alt-right and pro-Franco groups, complete with flags from the Franco dictatorship. Cs have also encouraged followers to “clean” the public space of symbols such as the yellow ribbon, which has become the emblem for freedom for the Catalan leaders who remain in prison without a trial for having organized last October’s independence referendum. Many of the clean up squads have been prone toward violence and confrontation, hence the portrayal of Rivera with the aviator jacket and black boots which is common apparel for the far-right in Spain and other places.

The other character is Pablo Casado, who was recently elected the leader of the People’s Party, which is the establishment center-right party which has formed a part of the two-party system with the socialists since the restoration of democracy after the death of Franco. Casado has inherited a party in crisis, which has been plagued by corruption scandals and is often seen by many as having been too soft on Catalonia during the aforementioned crisis. Casado rose to power by taking a much harder line against Catalonia, a contrast to the softer tone of his predecessor, the ousted Rajoy. However, Casado has two big problems: the PP holds only four seats in the Catalan Parliament, which is not enough to even form their own group, and looks set to lose even more, as conservative voters flee to the “clean” Cs party. The other problem is that Casado has been embroiled in a wider scandal which saw a major Spanish public university “gifting” Master’s degrees to various politicians, and others (including current president Pedro Sanchez) inflating their CVs with weekend seminars which turned into Phds. Casado seems to be in the clear for the moment, but the stain on his image remains, hence TVBoy’s having dressed him in the cap and gown. The fistful of cash would be a nod to the millions in dark money the party is rumored to have paid leaders under the table over the last forty years.

No one really knows how the current crisis will play out, but with the trials of the imprisoned leaders set to start early next year, tensions promise to escalate once again. My personal opinion is that the EU should get involved and mediate a solution, however I doubt that will happen unless things come to a critical boiling point, which is still pretty far off.

It’s unlikely that the paste-ups will last too long. In fact, someone had already attempted to remove the image of Albert Rivera, only hours after being pasted up. But just in case you’re curious:

Pedro Sanchez as Superman is at the intersection of Gran Via and Passeig de Gràcia.

Pablo Casado is on a doorway at Carrer d’en Perot lo Lladre.

Albert Rivera (most likely gone) is on Carrer Canuda.

 

 

A few weeks back I took a walk through the old city centre and found some pieces by the French artist Guaté Mao, whose instagram is @guate.mao. As mentioned in my last post, my data allotment is quickly running out, so there will only be a small number of photos. These pieces were found in the Born neighbourhood, near the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar.

On another note, as I mentioned earlier, an ex-colleague of mine has started a Youtube channel James Waylon, and on the same day when I took the photos in this entry, we went to the Hotel Brummel in the Poble Sec area, and had a chat about street art and some other experiences we’ve had over the years living in Barcelona. You can find a link to the video here. Comments and feedback are welcome!

The last few months have been turbulent ones here in Catalonia, and it’s been nearly impossible not to get caught up in the action, hence the lack of publications during this time.

While the independence issue has been at the forefront for the last 7 years or so, since the Spanish government moved to decimate the “estatut” agreement which gave the Catalans more autonomy, and recognition of their cultural identity, it’s only this summer that things really began to heat up.

The president of Catalonia since 2015, Carles Puigdemont is a lifelong believer in the independence movement, in contrast to his predecessor Artur Mas, who was a fairly recent convert. In June, Puigdemont and the independence-minded majority of the Parliament decided to fulfill their election promise and call a binding referendum on the declaration of an independent Catalan Republic. There had been a vote in November of 2014, but it was largely symbolic, and mostly ignored by Madrid. This time, however, Madrid started using every weapon in its arsenal to prevent the referendum, which was slated for the 1st of October.

Over the summer, there was much back-and-forth between Madrid and Barcelona, which culminated in Spanish Civil Guard (paramilitary police, which evoke images for the Franco dictatorship for many) forcing their way into various Catalan government offices, in search of referendum-related materials. This was accompanied by the takedown (and re-birth) of referendum websites, the prohibition of referendum advertising on Catalan public media. There was also police intervention in public meetings to discuss the referendum. Needless to say, none of this sat well with the Catalan people, and massive street demonstrations, beginning on the 20th of September resulted in the imprisonment, without bail or trial, of two leading independence activists known as the “Jordis” for their share first name, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the Spanish government decided to deploy 18,000 National riot police officers and Civil Guard, who were put up in cruise ships near the port.

The days leading up to the referendum were about as tense as I can remember having experienced since coming to live here, with all manner of threats being lobbed from Madrid toward Catalan leaders, citizens and media. The evening before the vote, people occupied the schools where the voting was to take place, organizing games, classes, workshops, and other activities to pass the time, and protect their polling places. The morning of the 1st was a rainy one, but people began to gather outside polling stations before sunrise, waiting to cast their votes, under the constant threat that the police moored at the port could appear at any time. The police did appear at some polling places, and exercised the restraint one would expect from a saber-rattling Madrid–some reports cite nearly 1000 injured, while others claim numbers in the single digits. The photo and video evidence which is abundant online seems to support the former numbers.

During these last few months, the citizen mobilization in the streets has been an impressive exercise in democracy which, whatever one’s feelings might be on the independence issue, has been unique for its lack of violence. A big part of those mobilizations has been the amount of postering and wheatpasting that has been done all over the city. As a street art blog, I felt it necessary to document some of it for you.

The majority of the shots in this post (including the first-ever shot of myself) are the work of the urban pop artist TVBOY. They are part of a series of famous artists from the past with touches of the present, including a Frida Kahlo Iphone selfie–the shot in which I couldn’t resist joining the famous Mexican artist for a rare narcissistic arm’s length self-portrait. The shot of Serge Gainsbourg comes from the artist Valerie Maho, and the great Muhammad Ali in stencil was created by RAF Urban. The other image (from sm172) which I’ve included is a darker reflection on our pop-selfie culture and is a statement on the voyeuristic bystander syndrome which seems to be a side effect of all of us being able to record and photograph all that we see, while forgetting to experience it, or get involved when necessary.

Today’s shots come from the free walls at Tres Xemeneies, near Avinguda Paral·lel, some random wanderings through the neighbouring Raval, and a new location (at least for me): the Jardins de Walter Benjamin, which are just near the Port, and mark the last frontier before the city gives way to Montjuic Park. As suggested in the title, the “gardens” themselves are nothing to marvel at, but the walls, which separate them from the playground of a local school, are the main attraction.

The Raval was full of tributes to famous faces, among them Debbie Harry, Kafka, Dennis Rodman, the late Prince, Jesus Christ (by artist sm172), and Football Club Barcelona’s favourite tax-dodging wunderkind, Neymar Jr.

As my geo-tagging feature on my camera app has become a bit unpredictable with the latest android update, my locations aren’t quite a precise as before. That said, a good wander round the Raval/Poble Sec area does a body good!

 

Longtime readers may remember a post from just over two years ago which featured an outdoor public art installation called the Galeria de la Magda. It wasfound just at the end of the Via Laetana at the corner of an empty lot. As rumors of a new real estate/property bubble loom and rents being to rise once again, the walls of this lot have been fenced off by what looks like the typical materials of a construction project. It is in a prime area of town, just between the old city centre and the beach, so I’m actually quite surprised the lot remained empty for as long as it did. A bit sad, but in a vibrant, international city like Barcelona, the only thing that’s really constant is change.  There was a bit of wall left outside the fenced-in area where artists such as sm 172 have used the space to artistically air their grievances.

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As cathedrals go in Barcelona, the undisputed champion would be, of course, the Sagrada Familia. You won’t find any pictures of it here, not because I don’t love it, but because a google search will yield hundreds of thousands of photos that would be much better taken than anything I could manage with my modest mobile photography skills. But I digress…

There are a number of other cathedrals worth checking out, most notably the Cathedral of Barcelona and the bustling plaza which surrounds it. My favourite, however, is in the Born neighbourhood, and a bit closer to the sea, hence the name: Santa Maria del Mar. I won’t post any pictures either, as I would hardly do it justice–but I definitely recommend it.

While you’re there, after you’ve marveled at majestic Basilica, take a turn onto a small side street called Mirallers, marked on the map here, and start walking along this street till the end. You should also be careful not to miss the surrounding streets, especially carrer d’en Rosic and carrer de Grunyí. Be on the lookout for some of the huge, old doors that have been covered in stickers, pasteups and all different sorts of images. With all signs pointing to the disappearance of the Galeria Magdalena to make room for a new construction project, this may be one of the only outdoor galleries we have left, aside from the free walls.

 

Ever since the city council began its crackdown on antisocial behavior in 2006, finding examples of urban art in Barcelona has become increasingly difficult–to the point where nowadays when I go out wandering the city, it’s nearly impossible to find new work outside of the permitted places.

These shots come from one of those morning meanderings through the Raval and the Old City Centre. Finding a silver lining in this situation is about as difficult as the hunt for new art, but if I suppose the scarcity means that it’s much more satisfying when I do find something interesting.

Sweet spot in doorway chaos

While I was searching for different doorways to make up my recent post on door projects, I stumbled upon this from Alice Pasquini. I see from her facebook page that she’s been doing a lot of mural projects in the NY/Jersey City area, which are my old pre-Barcelona stomping grounds. I can only hope some of them survive until I make my yearly Christmas pilgrimage back to the East Coast. And that the notoriously fickle Northeast winter is kind to me, at least for half a morning.