Your Street Art Makes My Rent Go Higher

Photographer Lluis Olive took a quick trip recently to Madrid and he did what he loves to do; took photos of graffiti and shared with us his new discoveries. This one caught our attention.

On Calle Embajadores he found that a mural by the Madrid based artist Okuda was dissed with “Tu Street Art Me Sube El Alquiler” or roughly, “Your Street Art Makes My Rent Go Higher”.

Background, Okuda with anonymous tagger. Madrid, Spain. (photo © Lluis Olive)

And the writer has a point, going to the heart of gentrification, and its connection to art.

It goes like this: Rotten, abandoned, vermin infested and derelict neighborhoods with large industrial buildings left in a state of decay are “discovered” by creatives who make them their homes and studios. Artists work to make any environment aesthetically pleasing, and that’s often their downfall.

Last night in a Brooklyn beer garden a buddy told us that he had taken a complete toxic dump in the lot behind his apartment and slowly transformed it into a beautiful garden. For his efforts, he said, the landlord wanted to raise his rent because he now has an attractive garden apartment that he should be charging a higher price for, according to the market. Punished for success?

This aerosol defacement of Okuda’s mural is a partially accurate statement– at least indirectly. But let’s not scapegoat the artist as the one to blame for gentrification. That’s an oversimplification of a complex cycle that no one appears able to diffuse effectively because the incentivized real estate system is surely twisted in many cities.