An unguided tour of Lisbon's urban art

Posted on February 28, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Av Fontes Pereira de Melo - Top & 2nd row: Os Gemeos and Blu

 

Before coming to Lisbon, I was a bit clueless in regards to Lisbon's street art scene. Over the last few years, I have been documenting street art during my travels and in London; and it brings me immense thrill when I stumble upon cool urban art pieces in the most unexpected places. I never do research beforehand nor do I search for them intentionally because I think this will spoil all the fun.

Nonetheless, it is almost impossible to miss the amazing street art in Lisbon because of its discernible presence! I was completely blown away by the scale and creativity, and as much as I love Lisbon's museums and galleries, I think the best contemporary Portuguese art work is to be found on the streets!

 

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Av Fontes Pereira de Melo - Top: Erica Il Cane (Crocodile) and Lucy McLauchlan (birds); Bottom: Sam3

 

The 'must-see' destination has to be Av Fontes Pereira de Melo, where a cluster of derelict buildings is covered with giant art works created by a group of internationally-renowned street artists. When I saw the works while I was on the airport bus heading towards the city centre, I decided to make a special trip to visit the site one day.

I later found out that the project was initiated by Crono project (founded by Alexandre Farto/Vhils in 2010), which aimed to turn facades of abandoned buildings into masterpieces of contemporary art. Here are some of the artists involved in this project: Os Gemeos (Brazilian twins), Blu (Italian), Erica Il Cane (Italian), Lucy McLauchlan (British) and Sam3 (Spanish). It is necessary to stand on the other side of the street to appreciate these murals fully; unfortunately, I arrived late in the afternoon and the lighting was not ideal to capture these stunning art works.

 

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The Amoreiras Wall - Top: Nomen, Slap and Kurts; 2nd row: Nomen; 3rd row: The Nightmare Before Christmas by Kurts, Styler, Slap

 

Since I spent most of time in Lisbon on foot, it subsequently enabled me to come across some of the city's marvelous street art by chance. My second surprise came when I discovered The Amoreiras Wall of Fame, an seemingly endless wall located between Amoreiras Shopping Centre and Marquês de Pombal Square. The graffiti started in 1995, and over the years, many of the original murals being painted over. But you can still find many outstanding murals created by famous local artists. My favourite is the mural of German chancellor Angela Merkel as a puppet master, holding the Portuguese Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister on strings. This was made by Nomen, Slap and Kurtz just before her visit to Lisbon in 2012. Highly political but brilliantly depicted.

 

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Alcântara tunnel

 

My third surprise came when I got off the train at Alcântara-Mar station and walked down to the underground tunnel. The last thing I expected to see was the entire tunnel covered with street art murals!

I later discovered that the project was initiated by Portuguese Association of Street Art (APAURB) as part of the regeneration of the area. About 400 local and international artists took part in this project, and I particularly like the wonderful murals of Lison's streetscape. This project demonstrates how street art can rejuvenate even the grottiest areas or places in the cities, and I think more cities need to follow suit.

 

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Street art in Alcântara

 

Venturing outside of the station, you can see a diverse array of street art including calligraffiti by Dutch graffiti legend Niels 'Shoe' Meulman. However, Shoe’s original black and white work has since been painted over with purple and green spray with 2 words: 'Hium', 'Quê?' (see above).

 

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Since Lisbon is a colourful city, its street art is equally vibrant and playful. Aside from building facades, walls and underground tunnels, the city's recycle bins are also used as canvases for street artists.

The concept was conceived by Galeria de Arte Urbana, founded in 2008 by Ines Machado as part of the regeneration plan of Bairro Alto for City Council of Lisbon. The City Council felt the need to create a site dedicated to street art, and wanted to open a dialogue with the street art community. The objective of gallery is to promote street art, and reject practices of vandalism and disrespectful actions towards other artistic works. The gallery believes that all of these artistic languages can co-exist in the urban landscape in a democratic manner, while emphasising the importance of cultural heritage preservation, conservation and restoration. I applaud Lisbon's City Council for its open-minded attitude towards street art and graffiti; its tolerance and forward-mindset plainly put many other city councils to shame. And this applies particularly to many Asian cities where artistic expressions are regarded as vandalism, since they all compete to look as pristine and glossy as they possibly can. This image-control attitude reveals how different the paradigm of  'democracy' is interpreted in the Eastern and Western societies.

 

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Walking around Lisbon, you are mostly likely to come across the 'signatures' of different street artists including a yellow cat by Monsieur Chat from France and a yellow pencil character ( though I am not sure who the artist is).

 

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Street and urban art in tiles

 

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Street art in Cascais - 3rd & 4th left: Diogo Machado; 4th right & 5th row: Easp; 5th & bottom rows: Dalaiama

 

In the seaside resort town of Cascais, I also discovered some intriguing street art and one of them was an odd-looking derelict house that appeared to be covered in blue and white azulejo.

Seeing it from afar, I was curious and so I walked over to have a proper look... it was then I realised that the azulejo was in fact a mural rather than ceramic tiles! This impressive work was created by a local artist Diogo Machado (also known as Add Fuel), who is well-known for his distinctive and quintessentially 'Portuguese' azulejo-inspired street art pieces. I have never seen anything like this before and I absolutely love it!

Other notable graffiti artists' work in Cascais include Easp and Dalaiama (look out for the black pacman-like character with birds).

Like London, Lisbon offers many guided street tours, but I still recommend exploring on your own if time is not a constraint. It is enjoyable and full of unexpected surprises that will make you 'see' the city in a different light.

 


This post was posted in Travel, Street art & graffiti, Art, Lisbon, Portuguese art and was tagged with graffiti/ street art, Portugal, Lisbon, Portuguese art

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