All posts tagged: Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art

New Digital Video Tour Through The Urban Nation Museum in Berlin / Dispatch From Isolation # 30

New Digital Video Tour Through The Urban Nation Museum in Berlin / Dispatch From Isolation # 30

Since most of us are quarantined at home right now, arts and cultural institutions have been challenging themselves to devise new programming that can be engaged with in virtual ways. Some of them require you to join in a meeting or event, others are self-directed.

Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin, like most museums, has been forced to close its doors for the near future, but they still want to give you an opportunity to walk through the exhibition with a warm and informative guide who also understands critical thinking. 

It’s a difficult task to give a tour to a guest when you cannot see them, but Markus Georg has a disarming natural way of describing his ideas so that you definitely feel sometimes like you are there with him looking at the studio art by many of today’s graffiti and Street Artists. We were particularly thrilled to see him talk about the Swoon piece because we brought her to Berlin as UN curators in 2015, and this was the collaged menagerie of her imagery made for that show.

Jan Sauerwald’s enthusiasm for the urban art scene dates back at least to his own experience on the street in the 1990s, and he knows what a special challenge it is for youth and families to be cooped up inside. As a cultural manager in Berlin for many years and today as Urban Nation’s Director, Mr. Sauerwald is especially pleased that the museum can offer an unhindered opportunity to see the works on display.

We asked him a few questions about the new video.

Brooklyn Street Art: What gave you the idea to have a virtual tour of the museum?
Jan Sauerwald: It is an unfortunate development that the museum and all the excellent works by different artists won’t be available for the visitors for such a long time period. It is pretty sad for an educational art institution like ours, so we were thinking hard about alternatives and we decided to implement an online tour to deliver easy access for all groups of interested people. We want them to feel like they are having a unique experience that is similar to the real thing as possible.

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you tell us a little about the guide who is helping us become familiar with the works?
Jan Sauerwald: Markus Georg is an experienced art mediator and tour guide. We have worked with him on other projects as well and we are very glad that he responded very quickly to our call to produce the digital tour through the museum. Speed is everything when it comes to mounting such a project in these times.

Brooklyn Street Art: What is one of the works you find most interesting?
Jan Sauerwald: One of my favorite works is the London Police painting in the exhibition. London Police do give us a lot of inspiration with their view of a fantastic and futuristic, but always friendly world. If our future could be like that – a friendly coexistence of men and machines- then I think it could I would be glad about that.


Enjoy the Digital tour through URBAN NATION

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The Ever-Changing Happy Chaos of Graffiti in the Bathroom

The Ever-Changing Happy Chaos of Graffiti in the Bathroom

The Egyptians did it. The Greeks did it. The Romans did it. Your favorite dive bar has it. The punk club CBGBs was famous for it, so is Urban Spree in Berlin. It’s worldwide, ancient and contemporary. Crude, rude, vulgar, vapid, poetic, gestural, artistic, meandering, succinct.

Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We’re talking of course of the practice of writing graffiti in the bathroom. Few know that the museum Urban Nation actively encourages the furtive aesthetic expressions of visitors. Here is a survey of the ephemeral graffiti actions caught in progress.

Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Bathroom graffiti. Urban Nation Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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BSA’s 10 Top Pieces on The Streets 2019: A “Social” Survey

BSA’s 10 Top Pieces on The Streets 2019: A “Social” Survey

The moment you think you understand the street is the moment you begin to lose touch. Behavior on social media is also about as reliable as your Uncle Oscar after he’s had a few too many frosted rum balls and rosy red holiday cocktails. First, he’s twirling Aunt Marge to the Beatles on the living room rug, next thing he’s headbanging with your cousin Teddy to Bon Jovi on the back porch – and later you regrettably see him getting his freak on with a Missy Elliott classic as he waits his turn at the pool table in the basement.

So we rely on the numbers to tell us what is popular with our readers, and not surprisingly, you like everything! Little tiny stickers, massive murals, 3-D sculptural elements, even Lizzo running for president. These are the top ten pieces that got retweeted, shared on Instagram, commented about on Facebook and read about on the site. It’s not scientific, and it’s skewed through the lens of BSA’s POV, but these hottest pieces are still an indicator of the sentiments and tastes of fans on social; sophisticated, insightful, critical, dark mooded, conscious and funny AF. You’re just our type!

10. LMNOPI

LMNOPI. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

November was “Native American Heritage Month” in the US and has been since 1990 and ironically the growing right-wing extremism of the intervening decades appears to have further erased our collective knowledge of native peoples – so it’s the perfect time to find this new campaign of local natives on the streets of New York by Street Artist LMNOPI.

9. Abe Lincoln Jr. & Maia Lorian. A Presidential Parody

Abe Lincoln Jr. and Maia Lorian (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The public takeover of ‘street furniture’ and advertising kiosks continues as artists demand back the mindspace and public space that is sold or given to corporate advertisers or propagandizers. This duo brings complementary skills to the old phone booths with their own brand of political satire.

8. Okuda & Bordalo II Collaboration in Madrid.

Okusa San Miguel and Bordallo II (photo @ Jaime Rojo)

This Frankenstein duet on the streets of Madrid caught our eye this spring and you liked it too. By Spain’s Okuda and Portugal’s Bordalo II. Madrid, March 2019.

7. Oak Oak in Bayonne, France.

Oak Oak (photo @ Jaime Rojo)

A small stencil in Bayonne, France from Oak Oak resonates in its cheerful satire of pompous crass man-boys with bombs.

6 Lula Goce for NRNY Artsy Murals /Street Art For Mankind

Lula Goce for NRNY Artsy Murals / Street Art For Mankind. New Rochelle, NY. November 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Swan and the falcon depicted on the mural are actual residents of New Rochelle. They came and liked what they saw and decided to stay and raise their families there. A fitting real story as New Rochelle is a town where immigrants are welcomed and are an important part of the community.

5. I Heart Graffiti “Lizzo for President”

I Heart Graffiti. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A campaign for singer/songwriter/ rapper Lizzo capitalized on the stars meteoric rise in 2019 to the top of many charts. Considering the number of Democratic challengers on the debate stages this summer and fall, it seemed plausible that she was actually running. If she promised Americans to help the poor and working-class yet assured her corporate donors to screw them once in office, she could get elected too.

4. Judith Supine’s Luxury Cowboy/girl Ad Take Over

Judith Supine (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The brilliant collage surrealist Judith Supine was back with a new lasso this year, skillfully misleading audiences on the street with his free associations equating luxury fashion brands and 20th-century cancer product advertising. It’s a match made in Hell!. Welcome!

3 Nafir at Urban Spree in Berlin

Nafir (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Iranian Street Arist Nafir left this Instagram alienation indictment hanging in a hidden spot at Berlin’s Urban Spree playground this year, and for some reason, it struck a chord with many.

Do you want to talk about it? We’re not joking about suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255
List of International Suicide hotlines HERE

2. “Outings Project” for Urban Nation Museum in Berlin

“The Outings Project” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It began as a way of bringing fine art pieces from inside the museum to the Street, and “The Outings Project” has brought hundreds of artworks out into the daylight this way for a decade or so, thanks to French artist Julien de Casabianca. These particular dark angels have been cast out of heaven and are just about to hit the ground across the street from Urban Nation Museum, Berlin.

1. Sara Lynne-Leo struck a chord with her pain commentary on the streets of NYC

Sara Lynne-Leo (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A relative newcomer to the streets in New York, Sara Lynne-Leo keeps her small scale pieces well-placed, if your eyes are open. A comedian and social observer, her character’s pains and insecurities are played out in magnified emotional tableaus that quickly capture the severity and make light of it at the same time. This one must have really captured the zeitgeist of a troubled time across modern societies, where one pretends a wound is made bearable with an optimistic sunny perspective, even if the situation may be life-threatening.

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Selections from the URBAN NATION Biennale “ROBOTS AND RELICS: UN-MANNED”

Selections from the URBAN NATION Biennale “ROBOTS AND RELICS: UN-MANNED”

“What if…”

What If… UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

That’s how curator Yasha Young began the UN Biennale in Berlin this month. A fantasy-infused ramble through a future jungle teeming with dark pop goth and an animated gorilla, the multi-featured installation by the outgoing Creative Director was meant to pose questions about a possible future, or many possible futures on an Earth deeply scarred, reclaiming itself from man/womankind’s folly.

Millenium FX Ltd. Gorilla Albert. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Spread along a 100-meter path and teeming with small surprise exhibits popping from the savage magic of two-day overgrowth, the installation appeared to take inspiration, at least in part, from the wildly successful Berlin exhibition two years ago called, “The Haus”, by a trio called Die Dixons. That one featured 175 artists creating immersive, site-specific futurist/fantasy installations on the five floors of a former bank – inviting dance troops and performances and thousands who cued for hours around the block.

INTI with Millenium FX Ltd. Gorilla Albert. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

One of artists at UN’s “ROBOTS AND RELICS: UN-MANNED”, Herakut, was also in the Haus exhibition and here under the roaring U-Bahn on Bülowstraße produces one of the best synthesis of technology and fantasy. Their sculptural painted theatrical character of Mother Nature is straight from a childs’ imagination, blinking eyes forming a blue inquisitive aura around its visage.

Hera of Herakut. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Herakut. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

No doubt many visitors winding through this late summer wildness were feeling quizzical to one another, confronting the various staged scenarios by 27 artists and asking “what if…”. Perhaps a  lush and greener version of the traveling “29 Rooms” selfie house we saw in Brooklyn a few years ago, this one blended themes of post-disaster with a glistening dark leafy future girded with idiosyncracies and Hans Ruedi Giger airbrushed human/machines locked in biomechanical reverie.

“They carry us off into barren deserts with relics of human existence,” says the press release,  “colorfully patterned animals in overgrown areas as well as spherical light worlds.”

Coderch Malavia Sculptors. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Plotbot Ken. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Frederique Morrel. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Dan Rawlings. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Vermibus. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Vermibus. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Pappas Parlor. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Ekow Nimako. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Ekow Nimako. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Vegan Flava. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Vegan Flava. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Goin Art. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Goin Art. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Urs Koller. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Urs Koller. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
NesPoon . Pedro Estrellas. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Filthy Luker . Pedro Estrellas. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Filthy Luker . Pedro Estrellas. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Quinte55enz . Pedro Estrellas. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nomad Clan. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nomad Clan. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Theater Anu. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Theater Anu. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Theater Anu . Gehard Demetz. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Outings Project. UN Biennale. Berlin September 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Participating artists include:

Coderch & Malavia // Cryptik // Dan Rawlings // David de la Mano // Dima Rebus // Ekow Nimako // Filthy Luker // Frédérique Morrel // Gerhard Demetz // Herakut // Inti // Julien de Casabianca // Louis Masai // Milenium FX // NeSpoon // Quintessenz // Nomad Clan // Rune Guneriussen // Sandra Chevrier // Theater Anu // Vermibus


Special shout out to Tobias Kunz, Annette Dooman, and the entire Studio Kunz team, Jens Rüberg and team and the YAP team.

We wish to express our gratitude to photographer and BSA contributor Nika Kramer for sharing her photos with us. Follow Nika on Instagram @nikakramer

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BSA Images Of The Week: 03.31.19

BSA Images Of The Week: 03.31.19

Welcome to Images of the Week! Go outside! Take your recycled bag with you because New York just outlawed plastic bags as of March 2020, so you can get in the habit now. This week most of our images come from the Urban Art holy city of Berlin, which we visited for a few days. Next stop, Querétaro, Mexico! Vamos!

So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Berlin Kidz, Herakut, Homo Punk Action, Lapiz, Lister, Marina Zumi, Mr. June, Nafir, Nespoon, Nils Westergardt, Ostap, Pink Pony, 1UP Crew and Snik.

Nafir at Urban Spree Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Herakut with Snik at Urban Nation Museum Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
NeSpoon in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Lapiz timely commentary on Brexit in Hamburg, Germany. (photo © Lapiz)
Pussy bubble train in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Pussy extinguisher in Berlin with Wetik. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Unidentified artist in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Lister and Homo Punk Action in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
It wasn’t me either…Berlin denial. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
1UP Crew dropped a fresh pretty blue roller in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Mr. June master class in geometry and optical illusion in Berlin for Urban Nation Museum. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Marina Zumi at Urban Spree Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Pink Pony in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Berlin Kidz. Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nils Westergard for Urban Nation Museum Berlin. (detail). (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Nils Westergard for Urban Nation Museum Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Ostap homage to Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer II in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Untitled. Sunset over NYC. After Rothko. March 2019 (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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Fanakapan Pays Tribute to His Dog in New UN “One Wall” in Berlin

Fanakapan Pays Tribute to His Dog in New UN “One Wall” in Berlin

It was a name used by my mother when I was growing up,” says the British Street Artist as he talks about his new mural for Urban Nation in Berlin. “She used to call my sister Fanny Fanakapan – it was just sort of a term of endearment,” he says.

Fanakapan. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. One Wall Project. (photo © Nika Kramer

It’s a cold/rainy/sunny/windy/calm Monday and we’re in the thick of Aprilwetter here at the end of March, and Fannakapan is stirring old memories to recall his entirely unusual name for Nika Kramer, the photographer who has captured these shots.

“I know there was this song made in wartime by a lady named Gracie Fields about a useless man named Fred Fanakapan, he says. “So it’s been stuck in my head from a very early age. I always had tag names that were sort of something to do with my family – like the name I had before this was TRIPE because my granddad used to say “that’s a load of tripe!” – which refers to a cow’s stomach.”

Fanakapan. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. One Wall Project. (photo © Nika Kramer)

The new mural, part of the ongoing “One Wall” program by UN, features his signature chrome texture – this time as a heart shaped balloon. He tells Nika why he’s positioned the cartoon character Snoopy, based on the Charles Schultz comic strip, looking quizzically at his own reflection in the balloon.

He says that with this mural he is actually giving a tribute to his own dog, which he credits with giving him love and support during a tough time in his life.

“It is kind of dedicated to her. At the time I was quite unhappy and she cheered me right up so basically I say that I believe in dog. I called the piece “Believe in Dog”.

Fanakapan. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. One Wall Project. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Fannakapan talks more about the two dimensional dog quizzically gazing up at the balloon and points out that the background is taken directly form the location. “I took the photographs next to the wall so it’s reflecting the trees and the buildings around it. When I do that I think it always makes the local people appreciate it more to see their street reflected in something.”

Our special thanks to Nika Kramer for sharing her talents with BSA readers here.

Fanakapan. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. One Wall Project. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Fanakapan. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. One Wall Project. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Fanakapan. Urban Nation Museum Berlin. One Wall Project. (photo © Nika Kramer)

And now lets sit down to the Victrola to listen to the original song about Fred Fannakapan by that inimitable Lancaster lassie, Ms. Gracie Fields.

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Nils Westergard Paints One of “The Unforgotten” with Urban Nation, Berlin

Nils Westergard Paints One of “The Unforgotten” with Urban Nation, Berlin


“endangering the morality and purity of the German race”, said §175 of the Criminal Code when referring to gay people.

Lies like that persist in other countries today, as does persecution of sexual minorities. The World Economic Forum in 2018 said that 73 countries still outlaw homosexuality, despite the move to legalize same-sex marriage in 26 others.

Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

This Sunday was worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day and the new portrait painted by Belgian-American Street Artist Nils Westergard for Urban Nation  museum is that of a victim of the Nazis who was made to wear the pink triangle sewn onto his concentration camp uniform.

“I was digging through images of camps and prisoners for a few days,” says Westergard of his search for the right image for this 2 meter wide, 6-story high wall in Berlin.

Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

“There are only so many that are classified as homosexuals or for sex crimes in general,” he says as he describes needing to incorporate a pre-existing sculpture of 200 metal origami birds that form a triangle into the composition by artist Mademoiselle Maurice.

He says that he ultimately discovered the image of this individual, a 32-year old locksmith named Walter Degen who was born January 4, 1909. While it is known that he was at Auschwitz and transferred to Mauthausen, it is not known if he survived the Holocaust.

Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Today we shout Walter Degen’s name from the rooftops and from this new wall to remind us how wrong we humans have historically been and how much we have learned, how much we still have to learn. We’re proud of Mr. Degen’s memory and honor his right to have loved another Mr.

Our thanks to photographer Nika Kramer for sharing her excellent images of this wall with BSA readers.

Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Nils Westergard. “The UNforgotten” Urban Nation Berlin. One Wall Project. Berlin, Germany. 2019. (photo © Nika Kramer)

URBAN NATION x Nils Westergard:
The UNforgotten – Edition 1


Thanks to Yasha Young, Urban Nation Director.

URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART.

With support of “Faces of Auschwitz” project.

About “The Unforgotten”
The wall at Bülowstraße 94 follows a very special leitmotif: it is a memorial for the victims of the Nazi regime, who were persecuted, abducted, imprisoned and murdered for homosexuality. This memorial wall in the LGBTQI-influenced neighborhood of Berlin-Schöneberg will over time transform again and again, as a reminder.

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Urban Nation: The Power Of Art As A Social Architect

Urban Nation: The Power Of Art As A Social Architect

With Director as Curator, Urban Nation opens it’s second exhibition since last years’ inaugural opening show, entitled “The Power of Art as a Social Architect” next week on September 27th in Berlin.

“My curation is a play on Beuys and the idea or ‘radical theory’ that everybody by simply being a human is an artist which to him is the essence of what it means to be a human being: The deep need and fundamental ability to create and be creative,” says UN’s Yasha Young. But on the opposite end of the spectrum almost as a mirror I place the philosophy of Dr. Seuss and his approach and huge social impact via simplicity and compassion.”

In addition the museum is planning to unveil their Artists in Residency Programme with 11 artists invited to participate including “Nespoon, Herakut, Li-Hill, Snik, Ludo, Mia Florentine Weiss, Sellfable, Dot Dot Dot, Louis Masai, Quintessenz, Wes 21 and Onur.”

BSA is headed to Berlin to see what’s happening and will bring you an update soon.


Place : Bülowstrasse 7 Urban Nation
Time : 8pm
Date: September 29, 2018


Flyer artwork by Herakut
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BSA Images Of The Week: 09.16.18

BSA Images Of The Week: 09.16.18

BSA-Images-Week-Jan2015

Welcome to the beginning of fall in New York, hopefully not the Fall of New York – although you can never tell when monetary policy is incredibly loose and we’re living in an “everything bubble” about to burst. Here in NYC people used to say the major industries were FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) and it is probably still true to a large extent. You could add Casinos to the acronym today because the this falsely high-flying and treacherous economy feels like a giant windowless drunken room full of sparkly lights, laughter and speculative plays. CAFIRE! Totally made that up. Might stick.

Also this week Manafort flipped, NYC voters got clipped, Hieronymus Bosch’s “Triptych of Temptation of St. Anthony” is alive on the subway, and Loren Naji is living in an 8 foot ball of reclaimed wood from demolished homes on the street.

So here is our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring 1312, 1UP Crew, Adele Renault, Adopt, Bailon, Ben Slow, Daze2, Dede, El Sol 25, Jonathan Allen, Marshal Arts, Mr. Joul, Nick Flatt, Nitzan Mintz, Not Pinky, Paul Punk, and Sandra Chevrier.

Top Image: 1UP Crew at Urban Spree in Berlin. Anthony Lister is preparing his show inside the golden windows. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Hi Art Machine (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified artist (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Marshal Arts in Berlin for Paste Up Festival 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Dede and Nitzan Mintz (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Daze2 in Berlin for Paste Up Festival 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Daze2 and Not Pinky in Berlin for Paste Up Festival 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

1312 in Berlin for Paste Up Festival 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bailon for Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

El Sol 25 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

NYC Subway ad take over by Jonathan Allen. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

NYC Subway ad take over by Jonathan Allen. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified artist. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Adopt (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Adele Renault at work in Jersey City, NJ. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ben Slow for Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Unsere Werte” (Our Value). Unidentified artist in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified artist in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nick Flatt and Paul Punk in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Unidentified artist…or is this an ad? (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Oh! One more thing. Unidentified artist in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mr. Joul in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sandra Chevrier for Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Untitled. Downtown Manhattan. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Lisbon Part II: Where Street Art is Becoming “Urban Contemporary”

Lisbon Part II: Where Street Art is Becoming “Urban Contemporary”

Street Art, graffiti, and murals are adding to the cultural character of Lisbon streets, this is undisputed. A quick tour of a museum show, a gallery exhibition, a hybrid art supply store/residency, and an artist’s studio give you an idea of the spirited and inventive contributors who are affecting the cityscape from behind closed doors as well.  Just ask artists and organizers here in the Portuguese capital a few questions and you’ll hear (and see) how the Street Art and graffiti scene graffiti scenes are also evolving to fine art and “urban contemporary”.

An Escher Show Reminds Us of His Influential Eye


Our look inside Lisbon begins with a visit to the M.C. Escher exhibition at the Museu de Arte Popular, which lays on a tract of land between Avenida de Brasília and the lapping waves of the waterfront. For some reason you always start or end near the water here, perhaps because this is where the city’s complex history brings you with nearly three centuries of international trade, culture and maritime lore forms the the foundation of this rich culture.

What brings us here today is the eclectic Dutch graphic artists work that is in our minds directly related to Street Art for a couple of reasons. A serendipitous intersection of visiting while the traveling exhibition stopped here, we had no idea that Escher’s original drawings of architecture and impossible spaces would be so handily on display for us to visually interrogate – and the artists’ wit and guile locked us into his gaze for an afternoon.

M.C. Escher. Museu De Arte Popular. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Known perhaps best for his works popularized during the surrealist and op art youth culture of 1960s and 70s, his mathematically-inspired illusions on famous rock album covers, posters, and advertisements are often reflected in the works of Street Artists today who also play with photorealism, hyperrealism, and flights of rhythmic visual fancy.

M.C. Escher. Museu De Arte Popular. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Secondly, as we had previously learned from architect Dennis Leo Hegic in Berlin, who was deeply involved in the design of the Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) interiors, Escher’s famous drawings had inspired the museums walkway that wends its way overhead throughout the space. We were eager to examine many of the drawings which effectively play on bending perspective.

At any given point along the path of that walkway you are granted views near and far but you are unsure exactly how, and as you tour the artworks on walls you feel yourself inperceptibly rising and lowering your own angle. It may give the impression that you are in some way inside an Escher riddle yourself.

M.C. Escher. Museu De Arte Popular. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As museum curators at the UN, we were interested to see the original works of visual play that inspired the Graft Architects team to create the stunning interior of the haus in Berlin. We also better understood why Hegic refers to Graft as “the Rock´n´Rollers within the German architecture.”

M.C. Escher. Museu De Arte Popular. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The darkened corridors of the exhibit itself seemed to play tricks on our bearings as we looked upon Eschers “subjects and patterns of mathematical precision, impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry and perspective.”

Into the Gallery with Underdogs


Gallery Manager Raul Carvahlo leads us through the Mário Belém exhibition on display in the former industrial low-rise building that houses the Underdogs Gallery down by the river in an area of the city many remember for old factories and which is now becoming better known for its vast warehouses accommodating the city’s startup and coworking scene.

Mário Belém. Detail. Underdogs Gallery. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“He always has this surreal quality,” says Raul about the 50 or so paintings, reliefs, lazer wood-cut sculptures, and suspended mobile installations by Belém that surround three sides of the pitched ceilinged space. “He uses his work to express his fantasy world and he is quite gifted with a number of techniques.”

Owned and guided by one of Lisbon’s best known Street Artist’s Vhils (Alexandre Farto), Carvahlo says that the 400 sm space is meant to act as a platform that provides support and encouragement to local and younger artists as well as the bigger names.

Mário Belém. Detail. Underdogs Gallery. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As an internationally recognized portraitist known for an unusual technique of blasting away the façade of a building to reveal the personality hidden within it, Vhils and the gallery also partner with and feature the occasional international Street Artist sensation like last year’s Shepard Fairey show, where the two collaborated on a street wall. This spring a full-scale exhibition blow-out by Downtown New York 1990s Street Art icon WK Interact is happening in the gallery with a large scale work also on the street.

Since the Underdogs space opened in 2013 and the initiative began in 2010, Vhils and company have invited a powerhouse parade of former or current Street Artists like Nunca, Sainer, Finok, Okuda San Miguel, How Nosm, Pixel Pancho, Remed, Cyrcle, Anthony Lister, and Felipe Pantone to mount shows and murals here – effectively putting the city on the map for high-quality international urban contemporary art.

Mário Belém. Detail. Underdogs Gallery. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Notably Underdogs has also provided their platform to more conceptual artists in the Street Art/public art scene like Pedro Matos, Wasted Rita and ±MaisMenos±, perhaps indicating a healthy respect for cerebral engagement and interventions that are not primarily aesthetic.

Among the local talents, the gallery also gives support to artists like André da Loba the illustrator and sculptor known for his 2-D emblematic works in publications like the New York Times and Washington Post as well as the illustrator AkaCarleone, a 33 year-old Portuguese former graffiti writer now commercial illustration/graphic artist who has worked commercially with a number of international brands. He has also created a municipal wall mural in the city and elsewhere.

Mário Belém. Detail. Underdogs Gallery. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“We’ve been working with him for quite a few years now and in 2018 we will be doing a big show with him,” says Raul of the poppy bright politics-free collages of typography, characters, and geometric forms. Later when touring with Carvalho through Lisbon streets we see on a rising hillside in the more historic part of town a large mural by AKACarleone overlooking the valley below, visible from many vantage points.

Mário Belém. Underdogs Gallery. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Propaganda Posters, Art Supplies, and Street Art Tours


As a more accessible and commercial extension to the brand The Underdogs Gallery works collaboratively with their storefront space on Rua da Cintura in Porto de Lisboa only a 15 minute drive along the waterfront from here.

20th Century Propaganda Posters culled from the personal collection of Alexandre Farto AKA VHILS exhibited at the Underdogs Store. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Shaped like a red brick channel that opens on one end into the Tagus River estuary that flows past into the Atlantic, the Underdogs store is part art supplies, print store, exhibition space, café, and mural tour company. In addition it just happens to have two small artist residencies above looking over (and on display for) art fans and tourists who make the small spot into a bustling and vibrant hub.

20th Century Propaganda Posters culled from the personal collection of Alexandre Farto AKA VHILS exhibited at the Underdogs Store. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Raul tells us it is a family affair for Farto, with a father in business who acts as integral advisor and guide as Vhils continues to expand an international presence and nutures the business on many aspects of Street Art-graffiti-contemporary art here.

A member of an early 2000s loosely formed artist collective called Visual Street Performance that held annual exhibitions, a co-organizer of the seminal Crono Project in 2010/11 with Pedro Soares Neves and Angelo Milano, and more recently co-curator of the MURO Urban Art Festival, his is a formidable creative force that influences the flow of this multi-player and quickly professionalizing scene.

Prints for sale at the Underdogs Store. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Beginning as a graffiti vandal writing his name in Seixal on the outskirts of Lisbon, Vhils now works with the government on occasion to facilitate public art projects and uses his own high profile art practice to spread socio-political goodwill internationally while proudly promoting his own heritage and city.

Underdogs Store on the foreground with the Montana store on the background sharing the same space. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Underdogs Store. Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In Studio with Add Fuel


Another local talent that Underdogs works with is Diogo Machado, otherwise known as Add Fuel. A trained graphic designer and illustrator well versed in the language of skating and his own youth as a graffiti writer, he’s become known internationally for his characters and his large-scale stencil-painted murals that incorporate the classic and traditional visual patterning of Portuguese tile work, or Azulejo.

On an overcast day his buddy and slightly younger peer, the sculptural Street Artist who works with recycled trash, Bordallo II, offers to take us to Cascais, a coastal town 30 kilometers west of Lisbon, where Add Fuel lives and has his studio.

Add Fuel. Studio Visit. Cascais, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The brightly lit and spotless split level studio has a public viewing room in the front and his office/studio in the back, where a firing kiln that Bordallo II likes to experiment with sits in the corner. The two of them assemble a number of materials together and load them into the kiln while we gaze at the primarily blue and white artworks of symmetrical repetitions interspersed with Pop and cartoon elements that he is better known for in galleries.

While we visit the two of them break off into rapid-fire Portuguese conversations about some collaborative projects they are working on – and we learn that Add Fuel often gives his rejected tiles and discards to the recycling Bordallo II. “For me there are no mistakes,” says Bordallo II, “I love mistakes.”

Add Fuel. Studio Visit. Cascais, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Add Fuel shows us screen prints, giclee high definition prints, lithographs, and multi-tile mounted works that he has for sale or is shipping to galleries and art fairs throughout Europe and the US. He even has created textiles – covering a chair using a technique called sublimation on fabric to reproduce the patterning of his tile creations.

“I think I have a lot of inspiration from cartoons and from 80s skate culture,” he says. “I also like Jim Phillips’ work. He made so many great skate graphics at that time. I sort of mix and match and create my own cartoon style. There are always some elements that people will recognize like some Disney character’s hands or some old cartoon characters’ eye but they are all sort of mixed together.”

Add Fuel. Studio Visit. Cascais, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Working with the DNA strands of Portuguese design that go back centuries may scare some artists, but Add Fuel considers it an inheritance that he respects and has the latitude to mess with to make it accessible to modern audiences.

“I also use similar elements of the original tiles,” he says showing you the tiles that Lisbon buildings are skinned in. “Like this geometric one is a very traditional Portuguese or Mediterranean pattern and I just added some small details, why not?”

Add Fuel. Studio Visit. Cascais, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bordalo II interjects, “You just f**ked it up.” The chide is answered rapidly.

“Yeah I just steal stuff, you know?,” Add Fuel retorts playfully. “Its not all from my imagination, I just stole it.”

Add Fuel. Studio Visit. Cascais, Portugal. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Then he turns to another tile work. “This one here is actually a two model pattern – is based on 13th century Portuguese leather work- small details that were in leather belts. But once tile making began the tile makers often took patterns from leather making and iron making as well. So many of the ornamental aspects that you see in tiles come from other artisans as well. I also grabbed them and then made them into something new.”

This moment is ripe for art in the streets for Lisbon, and based on the conversations we had and the artists and curators we met in galleries, museums, and studios, the collaborative action inside the door is as lively as the stuff out in public.

 


With most gratitude to Raul Carvalho, General Manager of Underdogs Gallery and to Pedro Soares Neves for taking the time to talk to us, for sharing their knowledge and insights with us and for showing us around Lisbon. Sincere thanks as well to Diogo Machado AKA Add Fuel for letting us visit his studio and for Bordallo II for taking us there.

 

 

This is the second of two articles with BSA in Lisbon in collaboration with UN Berlin, it was originally published on the Urban Nation website, and the project is funded in part with the support of Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) in Berlin.

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The Many Faces of Lisbon on the Street

The Many Faces of Lisbon on the Street

A Scholarly Eye On Artistic Interventions in Public Space


The excitement that pours from city walls in Lisbon is palpable, an animated mix of graffiti, Street Art, murals, sculpture, and the traditional artisan tiles. Like the famous Bacalhau dish of Portuguese cuisine, it all can be mixed together almost a thousand different ways and each surprising recombination can be loved for its unique character.

To appreciate the varied elements playing into the Street Art scene here, you won’t find greater insight than by touring with Pedro Soares-Neves, and he’ll make sure you won’t leave without understanding the forty years that have contributed to the scene up to this point.

Park. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Most visitors are overtaken by the sweeping views, the heart of the old city in the valley, the winding Bairro Alto streets full of colorful illegal artworks, the ancient bricks, traditional azulejos tiled buildings, tiny streets, sloping topography, endless staircases and retro-style cable cars that are climbing impossible inclines – each slaughtered with colorful graffiti tags.

Unidentified artist. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Now an international destination for many Street Artists, the growing number of murals here is remarkable, if not outstanding. Soares-Neves can look at the huge variety of expressions on the street and explain why the art is here now and how it fits into a greater context of a historical city that has gradually embraced nearly all expressions of modern art-in-the-streets.

A self-described fan of urban history Pedro is one of the few scholars in the global urban art scene who calls graffiti writers “authors”, quite possibly because he was one himself in his early teens here during the city’s first stage of graffiti proliferation in the early 1990s.

“I am kind of an architectural urban history fanatic,” he says proudly but in a confessional tone. Completing his doctorate in Design and Urbanism this year he is also co-organizer of the Lisbon Street Art & Urban Creativity Conference and the Street Art & Urban Creativity Scientific Journal.


Lister. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A lifelong Lisboan born at the same time the revolution from the dictatorship was born here in the mid 1970s, Soares-Neves tells the story of urban art as a progression of social movement, individual engagement, immigration, urban planning, importation of culture, commercial incursion and coalescing of local artists as a quasi-professional network.

As you ride in his 4-door family SUV-hybrid with kids toys and storybooks scattered across the back seat, you gaze along the historic spice trade waterfront and the Jerónimos monastery and museum row, swerving through the central “filet mignon” of the ornamented city to the outskirts, which he calls “the back-office”.

He gestures at the trains and wooded walls and areas where he once painted graffiti , to some of the current crop of throwups along the highway and to wall murals that have been commissioned by municipal, professional, and commercial interests. As the trip unfolds the story is not quite linear of course, and city history intertwines with personal history.

Telmo & Miel. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As is its personality, art-in-the-streets shape-shifts and redefines itself, creating new alliances, reconfiguring the balance. For example, currently Lisbon city leaders are working with former vandals and art school professionals to create programs of large colorful murals on soaring public housing towers.

The adjacent neighborhood of older single family houses laid out like suburbs features Soare-Neves’ own curated walls done by more conceptual artists who play with ideas about public space as well as aesthetics. The Portuguese +MaisMenos– directly intervenes with stenciled words here, creating quizzical conundrums for passersby and the French experimenter Matthew Tremblin who brings an online poll results via bar charts posing an existential question about Street Art.

Matthew Tremblin. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A truly unique insight into the rather omnibus experience of this urban academic, we actually get to look at two eras of Pedro’s own personal history as an artist are here as well, only blocks away from one another.

This IS a tour!

Pedro Soares-Neves. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

One Soares painting is on a low wall encircling a park. Part of a graffiti wall of fame (which he helped organize), it shows his 1990s affinity for character illustration and experimentation with letter styles. His more recent installation is a mixed media paint/land art derivation that converts disused construction materials and a habit-formed footpath leading up a grassy knoll to a numerical wall.

Again, the spirit of experimentation here is what is core to his art practice. Perhaps this is why his personal philosophies toward public space lean toward the organically Situationist act of creation, a practice that can be extended to all of the public and to the moment of inspiration.

Following are many images captured in Lisbon during our tour interspersed with this history of the last few decades courtesy Soares-Neves and our own research.

Corleone. Underdogs Gallery/Public Arts Program . Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

1980s-90s and Lisbon’s Dawn of Graffiti


Speaking with Pedro about the early graffiti of the 90s you capture a perspective on two important cultural factors that steered its direction.

The first is that through the lense of the liberators of the Carnation Revolution in the 1970s the style of aerosol bubble tags and characters recalled the earlier people-powered community murals and represented “freedom” in their minds, whereas cities elsewhere in Europe would have thought this painting indicated vandalism or a breakdown of the social fabric.

Suker. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Secondly, the fascination with graffiti was spurred by the children of African immigrants from former Portuguese territories of Angola, Mozambique and Capo Verde who moved to Lisbon after wars with them ended during the revolution. Now second generation teen immigrants from two cultures, they were looking for self-identity, according to Soares-Neves.

“They found resonance in this Afro-American and Latin American thing that was going on during the 80s so they connected with it and used it for language.”

Aire. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Quite possibly they were reacting to class and race prejudice and they identified with brothers and sisters in the music videos of American commercial hip hop culture. Seeing the exciting growth and the implied power of graffiti writers, musicians, and bboy movies like “Wild Style” in the 1980s, the expression of graffiti was alluring – a welcome visual art and anti-establishment practice that created identity, community, and newfound respect among a select peer group of cool kids.

“Actually it started with bboying culture in the mid 80s and then in the early 90s it started with a visual language of it,” he says, explaining the progression.

Unidentified Artist…speaking the truth. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A Personal Introduction to Graff


His own teenage aestheticism extended to characters, and a fascination for punk or “rough” magazines and the illustration stylings of artists in the classic Chiclete com Banana magazines. “I had this relationship with drawing and cartoons and this kind of stuff – this popular culture sort of thing,” he says.

His talents as an artist were well prized among his peers until he was nearly outshone by a graffiti writer from Capo Verde, a classmate who threatened Pedro’s status as the school artist; a funny story he explains this way:

“At that time in my high school I was ‘The’ guy who was doing the best cartoons and all this kind of stuff,” he says, reflecting on his celebrity. “Suddenly he did a big piece on the wall! So I was the king of the ‘drawing thing’ and this motherf***er came here and did a big and colorful piece!”

Edis1. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: ..and everyone knew about it of course.
Pedro: Yeah of course it was much more visible than what I did. So I started to interact with the guy.

Pedro’s personal history with graffiti began there and never stopped. After starting on walls and greatly enlarging his own illustrations and experimenting with letter styles, he and his peers grew to about 10 or 12 writers and the graffiti scene appeared to blow up from there.

A community of writers from many backgrounds spread across the city practicing one-upsmanship in technical skill and logistical daring, operating singularly, in small groups, or the occasional Wall of Fame project. Because there wasn’t a strict evolutionary lineage of style, many young artists developed their own in the laboratory of the street, not necessarily related to the hip hop culture but adapting from their own culture.

Cola. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2000s and the Turn Toward Street Art


By the late 90s and early 00s he feels that the scene suffered a sort of malaise when purely commercial murals began to take parts of the wall inventory and change the character of some areas. It was a development he deeply disliked for its perversion of a freer art practice yet he appreciated it for the employment it provided to professional artists. The city also borrowed the vernacular of graffiti for public service announcements painted as murals.

The mid 2000s began to reflect the influences of artists like Banksy and a new sort of community comprised of artists from old school graffiti writers and new generation Street Artist began to coalesce in Lisbon he says. Additionally the later 2000s began an increasing flow of international Street Artists and graffiti writers who began avoiding Barcelona after that city started cracking down on their famed urban art scene.

RAM. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“They (artists) started to add a few other languages to try to surpass this previous period and also began dialoguing with the new things that were happening in Street Art,” he says of the witty skewering of pop culture iconography, introduction of fine art illustration styles and the use of newer art-making methods.

“It was starting to really have lots of people doing stencils and paste ups and this kind of stuff all around. It started to influence the younger generation and that put some pressure on the older generations, who started to do that themselves.”

 

Visual Street Performance and the Crono Project


A collective guild comprised of artists from both graffiti and Street Art like HBSR81, Hium, Klit, Mar, Ram, Time and Vhils joined together in the mid 2000s and called themselves Visual Street Performance (VSP). A professional/DIY effort, they began to organize large events and an annual exhibition through 2010 that expanded the vernacular to hybrids of fine art and elements of pop, character illustration, photo realism, surrealist fantasy, found object art, abstract expressionist, more traditional graffiti and graphic design.

Pang. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Pedro had been studying abroad in the Czech Republic and Rome for a few years, “And when I came back I noticed a different panorama. There were lots of younger kids with totally different skills and with that approach of making money out of it,” he says with a mixture of admiration and possibly concern at the professionalism entering the equation.

“They managed to invent themselves,” he says, “and also within the exhibitions the kids like Vhils were born from these,” he says as he talks about the commercial aspects of the cultural scene with connections to an aerosol art brand, print makers, and related clothing projects.

Kam Laurene. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A notable commercial and marketing milestone that married Street Art and urban culture with the image of Lisbon itself took place in 2010-11 when the year long Crono project, curated by Soares-Neves, Angelo Milano (of Fame Festival), and local Street Artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto), brought rising stars of the moment to a high profile block-long series of ornate Art Nouveau and shuttered buildings along a heavily traveled strip in the city, Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo.

Os Gemeos . Blu . Sam3 . Erica Il Cane. Crono Project. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Internet’s volleying of fresh images of pieces by the Italian anti-corporate BLU, the hallucinatory dream illustration style of Brazilian graffiti twins Os Gemeos, and the lyrical storytelling of Spanish 2-D SAM3 alerted the Street Art worlds’ knowledge of Lisbon, and the project quickly became a destination for travellers.

Os Gemeos . Blu. Crono Project. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Soares-Neves sometimes speaks about the commercial appropriation of the street art vernacular in his academic work and in some ways it appears that the unexpected success of the Crono Project unsettled him as well. The curators had worked with the city to finance the project with an intention of giving opportunities to artists and fostering new aspects of the public art conversation, but according to Soares-Neves the high profile of the project undermined their own anti-establishment sentiments when city leaders recognized that a comparatively modest investment had ballooned into a successful city “branding” campaign.

Os Gemeos. Crono Project. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Possibly this is a cautionary tale that underscores the incremental dangers present when subculture crosses the rubicon into simply “culture”. There is always the fear that the original philosophies encoded in a subculture will be irreparably transformed, candy-coated, cheapened, or worse, excised.

Recently closed London-based Street Art print pioneers “Pictures On Walls” lamented in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way on their website in January when describing the evolution of their 15 year old business this way, “…inevitably disaster struck – and many of our artists became successful. Street Art was welcomed into mainstream culture with a benign shrug and the art we produced became another tradeable commodity.”

Borondo. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The City We See Today


The city seems like it is absorbing all of these changes well, and the variety of faces and styles of public artistic intervention that you see scattered throughout it feel vibrant and necessary. The city continues its 25 year heritage of organic graffiti and entertains international writers and has the occasional Walls of Fame. Elements of unsanctioned Street Art exists as well and neighborhoods are accented by the new generation of muralists with mad skillz.

Then there are those who are a little harder to categorize, like the subtle reworkings of traditional Portugues tiles with modern icons and patterns by Add Fuel and the prized sculptural pieces across the city by the trash-recycling animal naturalist Bordalo II, who just had a massive solo exhibition in November.

Bordalo II. In conjunction with his solo exhibition  ATTERO Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The contemporary urban artist and international Street Art star Vhils is a company at this point: operating a studio in a few cities, here running a gallery, a studio laboratory program for young artists, a street art tour business, and partnering with city art programming initiatives as well as brands. Somehow he still finds time to create artworks in the streets, including a recent portrait collaboration with Shepard Fairey in Lisbon and LA.

Shepard Fairey . VHILS. Underdogs Gallery/Public Arts Program . Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

At the end of our tour marathon Pedro Soares-Neves takes us to the Centro de Informação Urbana de Lisboa (Lisbon Urban Information Center) where we climb the stairs through the airy modernist foyer full of scholarly readers to discover a small scale maquette of the entire city that we have just been traversing.

Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Fanned out for you before the shiny blue Tagus River, perhaps 15 meters at its full expanse, the topographic features of the city are much less daunting when viewed from this perspective. As Pedro walks around the perimeter of the mini-city and points to neighborhoods, regions, the forest, the airport, the old city and the newly gentrifying areas of Lisboa he recounted stories of expansion, retrenchment, privatization, skullduggery and deliverance.

Thanks to him we appreciate graffiti/ Street Art/ urban art truly in its context of this city, its history, its people and the built environment like never before.

Lisbon. Pedro makes a point. December 2017. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Bordalo II. In conjunction with his solo exhibition  ATTERO Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Borondo. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Vhils. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Vhils. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shepard Fairey. Underdogs Gallery/Public Arts Program . Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shepard Fairey . VHILS. Detail. Underdogs Gallery/Public Arts Program . Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Lister. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Crayon. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Andre Nada. Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Unidentified Artist. Amoreiras Wall Of Fame. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Slap. Amoreiras Wall Of Fame. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

RariOne. Amoreiras Wall Of Fame. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

±MAISMENOS± Bairro Padre Cruz. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Corleone. Bairro Padre Cruz. Underdogs Gallery/Public Arts Program . Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Utopia. Galeria De Arte Urbana. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Tags. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Blu. Lisbon. Crono Project. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Blu . Sam3 . Erica Il Cane. Crono Project. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Erica Il Cane . Lucy McLauchlan . M-Chat. Crono Project. Lisbon. December 2017. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


With gratitude to Pedro Soares Neves and to Raul Carvalho, General Manager of Underdogs Gallery for taking the time to talk to us, for sharing their knowledge and insights with us and for showing us around Lisbon.

BSA in Lisbon comes to you courtesy BSA in Partnership with Urban Nation (UN).

This is the first of two articles with BSA in Lisbon in collaboration with UN Berlin, it was originally published on the Urban Nation website, and the project is funded in part with the support of Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) in Berlin.

 

 

 

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A Street View From Inside the Doors of Mexico City ; Galleries, Studios, Museums, and the Metro

A Street View From Inside the Doors of Mexico City ; Galleries, Studios, Museums, and the Metro

Street Art and graffiti and their relatives often go inside these days, including in Mexico City, where we recently found some interesting new intersections between urban art and contemporary art when we wandered off the streets into studio, gallery, and even museum spaces.

Here we’ll show you images from a few of these places, including; a versatile gallery and performance space that happens to serve pizza, a toy museum and the Street Art visionary who runs it who has facilitated some of the best installations around the city that you’ll see, a visit with a Mexican mural/fine artist who has made serious waves on the Street Art stage as well as museums, three Argentinians setting up a temporary art-making studio in preparation for a gallery show, and a serendipitous run-in with Keith Haring on a train in a metro station.

Bernardo Flores pays tribute to Mexican Luchadores on the walls, ceilings in the Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM) that features murals and tags by Street Artists throughout the exhibitions and up on the roof. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Perhaps taking its name from the largest cemetery in the city, or simply the Pantheon, the Roman temple with its multiple galleries leading off the grand rotunda, this Panteón opened in spring 2017 and is funded by Mexican pizza chain scion.

Inside a finely appointed 200 year old colonial mansion and former headquarters of the Mexican Academy of Language on Calle Donceles, one of the oldest streets in the city, the spacious two story building is now hosting a live concert stage with a bar off the pizza restaurant court on the first floor. Climb the winding stairs to discover an open balcony ringed with well-curated shows of current art movements that break your expectations in their diversity and quality, hung with care and well-lit in high-ceilings former libraries and entertaining salons, replete with hardwood floors and articulated cream and oak mouldings.

Motick. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think frontiers are breaking apart across the world,” says director and curator Andres Medina, who is creating a blended focus on graffiti writers, Street Artists, master screen printers, illustrators, and painters whose work is informed by elements of street culture like tattoo, dark pop, skater culture.

The 9 month old series of exhibitions and shows have included group shows, installations, and pop up shops by Mexican street heavyweights like Street Artist/muralist Smithe, original 90s stencilist Watchavato, and modern stylemaster Buster Duque, who has helped out with some selected burners on the roof. The tight vision of the shows is quietly bringing inquisitive fans as well.

“So we are getting at least one international visitor per week who wants to know more about our projects,” he says. As an editor of zines and a student of films, he gradually has been defining his focus on curation with themes that have an almost personal touchstone that he develops with the artists along with curator Mariela Gomez, and they both speak about a need for gallery exhibitions to evolve.

KlaseOne. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“One of the things that excites us the most is the idea of an exhibition as more of a ‘happening’. We want there to be a part that is graphic and a part that is an experience,” he says as he leads us to a separate white walled colonial space where handguns are made from molds in black wax and guests at the opening scrawled missives across makeshift walls related to violence in society. “It’s meant as an interactive critique,” he says, “these are guns that shoot ideas.”

Attendees are not typical art patrons interested only in collecting – for this show about violence and terror, “Dispara” by the Mexico City artist Ciler, the invited guests were policy makers, elected officials, journalists, even Tito Fuentes the lead singer of the popular rock band Molotov, as well as people directly affected by gun violence. “It was a pretty emotional night,” says Mariela Gomez, who recounts the fiery conversations that began when guests realized that they could express their thoughts about gun violence and organized crime, which is more-or-less openly terrorizing certain neighborhoods and cities in the country.

Ciler. “Dispara (nombre ficticio)”. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ciler. “Dispara (nombre ficticio)”. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Wachavato. “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Wachavato. “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Once everyone was here we found that everyone wanted to make art as well; so they all became part of ‘the happening’,” she says. Guests broke the guns, wrote screeds across the walls, even blasted black paint with a power tool “Everyone was covered in black dust and wax, were breathing some of it” she says,” which goes along with the concept of violence in society – no one can escape it really.”

Still young and at the behest of a fast food business, it’s unclear what kind of mandate Panteón has, but the owner has long term leased the historic building next door to further the show, which will now include his brother’s burger café and a freshly poured concrete mini-skate park and we climb a tattered yet elegant staircase to tour through grand raw spaces that will house martial arts, yoga training and yes, the occasional sports branded pop-up store. It’s a formula attempted before – life-style and entertainment intermixing with the plastic arts – and it will be good to see the integrity of the art game supported here. The balance is hard to strike, but it can be done.

Buster. Centro Cultural Panteón. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Museum of Toys and Art on the Streets

A Street Art proponent and personal brand champion, Roberto Shimizu is the second generation 30-something who is running the five-story, decade old Museo Del Juguete Antiguo (Antique Toy Museum) aka MUJAM with his ever-curious and professional collector father in the Colonia Doctores neighborhood. A stylistically unremarkable structure in the thick of this middle class eclectic cluster of cantinas, mechanics garages, and a hospital, most of the streets are named after famous physicians and many of the initial Street Artists who painted his parking lot and roof have also gone on to make names for themselves.

Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Circus. Detail. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With a few hundred thousand toys carefully arranged in “toy environments” customized from industrial machinery and unusual found items, these surreal scenes may move animatronically or glitter under rotating lights – or get pinched and refracted through specialized viewers. If you are not high on something, there will be no need to do so before entering the meandering homemade and hand-loved MUJAM. Just unbutton your childhood imagination and you’ll find complete display cases of original illustrations and figures of Mexican comedic character Cantinflas, or an arrangement of stuffed bunnies dancing erotically, or a colorful parade of luchador dolls with Shimizu-customized fashions that play with proportions and sometimes reverse their genders – getting married to each other.

Pavel Ioudine. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The beyond eclectic collection, estimated at only 5% of the total 60-year collection that has been hand-archived and warehoused, is only enhanced by large paintings by ROA or M-City that have graced the walls outside and the 75 or so intermediate and medium sized murals sprinkled through rooms, hallways, pillars, ceilings, stairwells throughout the museum, including a by-invitation-only rooftop gallery.

The younger Shimizu (and new father) weaves in and out of neighborhood streets with us in his truck the same way he navigates the museum, brooding and swerving and pulling aside to hold forth with bits of historical fanfare and numerical details, peppered by behind-the-scenes stories of intrigue and dalliances – all set off by his own striped and checked slim-waisted sartorial selections that effect an elegant carnival barker, a sixties mod rocker, or the mysteriously aloof millionaire in a family board game.

Arty & Chikle. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Arty & Chikle. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Arty & Chikle. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Aligned with more commercial partners in the past when bringing appreciable Street Art names to Mexico City, Roberto says he prefers the organically grown festivals and exhibitions that have taken root in a few cities to the brand-flogging lifestyle-delivering “influencers” who are Snap-chatting their way through a Street Art tour. His own public/private collection of walls that he has organized over the last decade or so is rather impossible to categorize stylistically, veering from the cartoon to folkloric, photorealistic to abstract, magical-mystical to wildstyle bubbles.

With all these participants it is a come-one-come-all collection that reminds you of the vast reenactment of a circus that is under glass on the second floor, a menagerie of strongmen, tigers, lions, bearded ladies, and assorted crowds of various configurations lined up on the periphery of the big show.

Saner in Studio

Saner. Work in progress. Studio Visit. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In a gated, if worn but serene, community of two story ranch houses built in the 1960s and 70s, the painter Saner has his studio and home. He meets you at the ornate iron gate to his concrete patio and invites you in while speaking on his phone to see the sun-sharpened shapes inside, a personal welcome replete with mask-painted characters interacting on the dining room wall, two large sculptural facsimiles of him and his wife and bright back deck.

A meteorically-rising yet not flashy spirit on the Street Art circuit, Saner is enjoying steady success with a carefully selected path of public walls, gallery shows and even museum representation in the last decade. Sitting in the small front living room while his beige retriever and muse chews through a basket of dog toys and vies for his masters attention, you can see that Saner’s art world accomplishments haven’t distracted him from a grounded view of Mexican socio-political history, his deep love for its people, and his almost mystical, darkly emotional storytelling.

Saner. Studio Visit. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In his studio you see his latest sketchbook that he is slowly building page-by-page with details of figures overlapping and radiating and sometimes dancing in warlike poses among the fern and fauna. His crossed-arm stance while leaning on his worktable tells you that he’s waiting for your ideas to help propel the conversation, partially because he is shy, partially as a challenge. A graffiti writer here during the explosive 1990s scene on the streets and trained as a graphic designer, his identity as a Mexican painter became more important to him as he grew older and he began to be less concerned with emulating European or American visual and cultural language.

Saner. Studio Visit. Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

You look at the hand-illustrations of figures and costume, weaponry, instruments, flowers, feathers, and wild animals, and you realize that any of these could be the paintings you have seen on walls in neighborhoods and canvasses in galleries – suddenly perhaps a little awed to be in this artists sacred studio space. Then the talk turns to his dog and his recent travels across the world and you know that its just one guys’ greatness, that’s all.

3 Argentinian Street Artists in Studio

Elian. Studio Visit. Centro Historico. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The thick air is thumping with a live-performance of a 1980s Judas Priest song by the house band in a musical instrument store across the street here in the crowded old central district of the city at lunchtime. With French doors flung open over your head from the second floor, a cloud of green aerosol envelopes the body of Street Artist Elian and creates a silhouette as he coats an organic form carved from wood on the worktable before him. The shape will join others mounted on a wall next week in Toba Gallery as a smaller 3-D interpretation of his abstract compositions that he sprays across massive walls on buildings and even parking garages for festivals and private clients across Europe, the US, Russia, and his native Argentina.

Ever. Studio Visit. Centro Historico. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In this raw colonial former home with chipping paint and rusted hinges, the rooms serve as studios for a number of artists who pass by the small news stand with lottery-tickets and cigarettes before jogging up the central steps that are lit by an open sky. Also readying for the 3-artist show called “Deforme¨ are two Street Art brothers from the scene who have often painted in the same city with him, JAZ and Ever Siempre. Together the three are pushing their creativity beyond the work they are each known for in murals at festivals, each saying they are a little tired of the way the organic and illegal Street Art scene morphed into legal and often approved murals, even though they appreciate being paid by these events that are partially funded by municipalities or commercial interests. A symbol of mobility and fraternidad in the scene, local Street Art/graffiti artist Smithe, who is loaning the studio space to the artists as they prepare, also owns Toba.

JAZ. Studio Visit. Centro Historico. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Speaking of galleries, the Celaya brothers have begun a number of commercial enterprises and spaces in the last half-decade, looking for the right formula for capitalizing on the Street Art zeitgeist and partnering with corporate brands. Not far from an enormous mural by the London-based D*Face, their most recent contemporary art gallery in Colonia Roma Norte was featuring a solo show “Trompe L’oeil” by the Italian born, Berlin-based Street Artist/ fine artist Agostino Iacurci as he adds a third dimension to his ornately synthetic forms and sophisticated bright palette. Curated by Vittorio Parisi, the room is spare, the sculptures pleasantly innocent, and slyly humorous.

Agostino Iacurci. “Trompe L’oeil” solo exhibition at Celaya Brothers Gallery. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Keith Haring on a Train

The metro train system in Mexico City, like many aspects of public life over the last two decades, is a faded shade of its previous zeal. It may also be the damage from a large earthquake three months earlier that shook this city, which adds to a feeling of insecurity as you navigate the swarming crowds and watch packed trains pull away while you wait your turn to board. You may also get a bit forcefully pick-pocketed in the middle of the day on one of these trains, as did your author, so you may favor zippers inside your clothing the next time you return.

Keith Haring on a whole car on the Metro. Mexico City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Hearkening back to the lack of public services in New York’s when it was fiscally broke in the 70s and 80s and Street Artists Keith Haring wrote freely on empty ad-spaces in the subway, it felt a little like the spirit of the Street Artist appeared unexpectedly in front of us while we waited for our next underground connection in this magic city. A swath of colorful characters jumping every which way across the full cars, the familiarly active Haring symbols of figures herked and jerked into place while the cars went through a series of starts and sudden stops. The riders slid back and forth, clutching their straphangers, and we quickly fumbled for a shot of this Mexico City train covered with the welcoming sight of a New York Street Artist who sparkled at the dawn of the go-go portion of the 80s, soon taken in the sadness of the AIDS-panic portion that struck the city.

Undoubtedly, the Street Art and graffiti scene continue to expand and morph into other scenes and venues – many now inside. For some, this is anathema to the true spirit of the mark-making practice that first took root in unsanctioned acts in illegal places, often in open defiance of accepted norms. For others, this route indoors only strengthens the appeal of voices that are now speaking inside the organizational structures we build, and it is remarkable to see such a diverse and lively number of examples throughout this doorway to Latin America aided by very gracious and friendly Mexican hosts at every stop we made.


Below are more images and video from the Antique Toy Museum, MUJAM – Mexico City

Alegria Prado. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ear One has a good play on words here, and a nod to cartoonist Vaughn Bodē, whose work inspired a generation of graffiti writers on the Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

LELO. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ovrlnds. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

NAS. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Alina Kiliwa . OJE . Alegria Prado. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

EsMARQ. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Noel. Roof top. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Paola Delfin. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Paola Delfin. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Curiot. Detail. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Curiot. Detail. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This toy monkey served as the inspiration for a political mural by artist Erica Il Cane a few years ago visible to the street. See A Mexican Mural “Manifesto”, Blackened Flag Colors, and Censorship. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Daniel Bauchsbaum. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Daniel Bauchsbaum. Antique Toy Museum (MUJAM). Mexico, City. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 


This is the second of two articles with BSA in Mexico City in collaboration with UN Berlin, it was originally published on the Urban Nation website, and the project is funded in part with the support of Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art (UN) in Berlin.


Additional coverage by BSA in Mexico City:

An Unlikely Museum for Street Art? MUJAM is in the MX MIX : BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 1

Saner, Mexican Muralist and Painter, Studio Visit. BSA X UN X Mexico City: Day 2

Panteón and Watchavato “No Esto No Es Lo Que Fue” Opens In Mexico City

Exploring New Techniques and Processes with Elian, Jaz and Ever in Mexico City

BSA Images Of The Week: 11.26.17 Mexico City Special


This article is also published on the Urban Nation museum website:

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