This year’s Festa Major de Gràcia featured a new entry into the decorated streets: la Plaza del Poble Rumaní, the theme of which was one of the biggest cultural contributions from Gràcia’s vibrant gypsy community: la Rumba Catalana. While the decorations themselves had a difficult time competing with the more experienced streets, one feature which stood out from the rest was a huge mural which was painted on the wall of a neighboring school.
The mural is a collaboration between local schools, the local gypsy community, and the organization acidH (Catalan Association for Integration and Human Development). The three artists who participated are well-known in the Barcelona street art scene and this blog: Xupet Negre, Caesar Baetulo (sm172), and konair.
The images on the mural are a mix of the artists’ trademark characters and icons of Catalan culture.
Having a dog is a great excuse to get out and explore new areas of the city. My latest trips have taken me uphill, where the views of the city and the sea are marvelous, and there is also some nice street art hiding in the steep hills above the city.
The first few pictures come from the area near the Bunkers del Carmel, which served as the city’s defenses from fascist aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. The views are spectacular, and if you go during the week, you might be able to recapture some of the secluded off-the-beaten-track appeal. At the top of the hill you can find some walls which are painted with some murals, including one of the famous literary figure Don Quixote.
The rest of the photos are from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, which lies just next to Park Güell. This area is worth exploring as there are some interesting buildings and plazas, as well as some spectacular views of Barcelona spreading out toward the Mediterranean.
The dog days of summer are probably not the best time to explore this area as the sun seems to beat down a bit harder the higher you get, but a cloudy day in early autumn would be perfect for a climb, and besides, the pictures come out shadow-free on cloudy days.
Post number two of my NYC trip is dedicated to the street art tour I decided to take on a chilly Saturday morning. The tour was run by an outfit called Free Tours By Foot, and they run tours on all different types of themes in cities all over.
It definitely felt a bit odd, to be walking with a tour group in a city which I had called home for so many years. But considering that my interest in street art didn’t start until well after I had left NYC, it was a really great way see the city for the first time. The tour guide was a great source of information, being an artist himself, and put a lot of time and research to make the tour as educational as possible. I definitely learned a lot, and don’t feel quite so much as a layman as I did before.
The tour took us through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and scraped the Lower East Side, all areas which were a part of my regular stomping grounds when I lived there, so it was a great experience to see such familiar streets from a different point of view. The tour finishes off on Mulberry street in the slightly tacky heart of Little Italy, so I didn’t linger around for too long. Though I couldn’t resist grabbing a cannoli before moving on.
Needless to say, I definitely recommend this tour next time you’re in NYC. There are also tours of Bushwick, Astoria, and Williamsburg available. Here’s the link.
For my second May post (which is actually hitting in June) I’ve decided to return to Gràcia, as I haven’t posted much from the surrounding area lately. Most of these shots come from strolls around the vila over the last three or four weeks. As suggested in the title, one of the more interesting ones is a portrait of tourists as paella-wielding, selfie-sticked zombie hordes who come to invade our quiet little neighbourhood nearly year-round. This sentiment can be seen in occasional graffiti which read “tourists go home”. As a foreigner who first came as a tourist, I’m a bit torn; while I recognize that tourism is vital to our local economy, and that a good majority of tourists are well-behaved and civilized, I also know as a resident what a putada it can be having the area so constantly crowded. On balance, I’m in favour of tourism, but I think that we need to start moving toward a more sustainable model. This is what the current city administration (in theory) is going for–a city planned and built for its residents, but also welcoming for tourists. A difficult happy medium to achieve, but a noble objective, in my humble opinion.
The other shots are rather random and generally political in nature, along with some anthropomorphized popsicles from konair, and some paste ups which have been appearing with increasing frequency.
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.
This doorway can be found on a small side street just off Gràcia’s emblematic Plaça del Sol, and features, down below, a piece of art by Menorcan stencil artist M2, who was featured on this blog during my holidays a few years back. Above that is an image of Rap icons RUN DMC, which calls to mind many memories of long-lost 45 rpm singles I used to spread across my bed when I wanted to play DJ on a rainy Saturday morning. I can still hear the crackle the cheap Fisher-Price record player stylus produced, but it was 320bps to my 9-year-old ears, and more importantly, without the danger of the radio DJ cutting off the song early with some advertiser babble or corny joke.
Edit: I’ve been informed that the pasteup that you can see in the middle comes from an artist named Mischief. You can find Mischief’s work all over Barcelona.
I found this piece a few days back, but decided to sit on it until the end of the Festa Major. This sad clown was stenciled over layers of posters by Norgwegian artist Stein. I walked by this morning as the municipal cleaning crew was pressure-washing the streets and saw that part of his face had already disappeared. Someone had placed a poster over him and when the poster was removed, it took the lower part of his frown.
I doubt it was intentional, but the expression fit very well the mood of the neighborhood this morning, as residents were crossing the damp streets carrying the remains of all the week’s decorations. Most bars and small restaurants that had been operating non-stop for the last week were shuttered, their employees enjoying some well-deserved R&R. Indeed, I ran into my friend who works at the local bodega (wine and liquor shop) and said “Se acabo la fiesta! (The party’s over!) to which he replied, “Ya era hora!”(It’s about time!).
This stencil image was taken back in the summer somewhere in my neighborhood of Gràcia, gracing the side of an electrical box. Quite small, low to the ground and very easy to miss, it quickly became a favorite of some of my regular instagram followers. Now that I’ve got a higher resolution camera, I have tried, in vain, to relocate this little splotch of sweetness. It is proving just as elusive and unattainable as the feeling of the first kiss. Unattainable, but irresistible.
Continuing with our Catalan election coverage aka Decisió ’12…
While I didnt recognize it immediately, the stencil in the lower center part of this mishmash of images is Pedro from the movie Napoleon Dynamite. While this movie isn’t for everyone, I do think it captured that boring, quintessientially middle American quirkiness that you need to have experienced first hand to really understand. I think if you’ve been there, you would enjoy this movie.
In any case, one of the central parts of this movie is the school president election, with the underdog Pedro running against the popular girl. Pedro’s election platform is quite simple–you can see it here. I think this picture captures that platform perfectly. Amongst these dreams and musings, in varying states of decay, we find the candidate staring blankly ahead.