Street art in Barcelona swept away by the property boom?17 January 2022
Street art in Barcelona is suffering from the arrival of high-tech companies in the Poblenou district. The wastelands of the old factories are disappearing under the shovels at high speed to make way for a sort of Silicon Valley with high steel buildings and improbable lofts. Poblenou was for decades the heart of Barcelona’s free urban art. In the 1960s, anti-Franco protests covered the walls of these brick factories. Later, graffiti artists put their blazes on the walls and soon they were joined by international artists. Today, artists are still resisting in the old factory of La Escocesa and clean urban art galleries are coming to the area. As you might guess, there are still some great things to discover in Poblenou, but I doubt it will last very long!
La Escocesa, the nerve centre of street art in Barcelona
This former textile production factory has been transformed since 2008 into a huge space for artistic creation. Painters, sculptors,… work and live there and take advantage of the equipment and material made available to them by the Associació d’Idees Ema. On paper, this may seem idyllic, but when you enter La Escoceca you find yourself in the heart of a completely dilapidated industrial building and you have more of a feeling of entering a crumbling, abandoned place than a space for artistic creation.
It is important to know that this place was squatted in the 90s by Urban artists. We can therefore find works of their passage like this huge wall made by Zosen Bandito when he lived there at the end of the 90s.
Before leaving the place and continuing this discovery of Street Art in Barcelona, I can’t help but share with you the entrance to La Escocesa and its incredible ceramic wall, facing an almost surreal fresco!
Stroll around the old factory to discover the disappearing works
The small warehouses and obsolete buildings around the factory were destroyed one after the other, but some of the works remained untouched and it is easy to imagine what the area must have been like before the demolition party!
Some of the works adorn the last few small buildings. The woman in a swimming costume by the Argentine artist Mariela Ajras seems to have come straight out of another time and fits seamlessly into the current landscape of the place, which is located just a few hundred metres from the Mediterranean sea. The other work, which is discreet, resembles the works of the artist Add Fuel with its assembly of azulejos… But no signature is apparent; as for most of the works in the district, they are painted illegally.
The small abandoned warehouses are also covered with works! Some are now covered in anticipation of their destruction, but others still give us a glimpse of works that have stood the test of time.
If you stray into the adjacent streets, you will discover all sorts of Blazes, Bubble Letters, Block Letters,… And sometimes if you have a keen eye you will recognise a small character like that of El Xupet Negre.
One thing is certain, the inhabitants are not happy with this change and they too are making it known on the walls as in the 1960s!
Graffiti in stock on the Carrer de l’Agricultura
On my way to Carrer de l’Agricultura I begin to realize that the district is not at the beginning of its transformation. All that remains of some of the factories is the chimney, which will certainly serve as a decorative element in the midst of the glass monsters that are being built.
The walls become blank and only a few electrical panels are graffitied.
The old wavefields have been walled up and you have to stand on tiptoe to see the works of art behind them. I did this with great pleasure so that I could show you an old work of art from the neighbourhood 😉
There are still signs that the area remains attractive to graffiti artists. The corner of a building, or the garage doors, like this one occupied by artist Tim Marsh, are signs of real resistance on the part of the artists.
You should know that this street was certainly the most graffitied in Europe! And when I got to its level, I understood how much things had changed. The walls of the factories that are being destroyed have been replaced by corrugated iron or grills, which doesn’t leave much space for painting. But the graffiti artists who have lived and bombed on this street for decades have not been deterred. They have already started to take over the new walls that surround the future offices and lofts of the neighbourhood! There is a very hip-hop and 80’s style in this street which is almost deserted because it is under construction. It seems that the graffiti artists have not said their last word!
I could show you miles of graffiti! One thing is for sure, if you venture out to Carrer de l’Agricultura, I think there will always be beautiful graffiti to welcome you!
From the gallery and artists’ residence NauART
Even though the area is undergoing a complete transformation, there are still a few spots that should remain. The one next to the NauART space is one of them. Simply because the artists in residence in the place tend to leave their studios and also because the urban artists bombing next to the gallery see it as a good opportunity to make themselves known!
On the rolling shutter of the gallery is a portrait of Pablo Picasso; an amusing wink by the Uruguayan street artist Jose Gallino. The work is so cleanly done compared to the other works in the area that it is almost anachronistic 😉
Here, as elsewhere in Poblenou, the contrast is permanent. Opposite the gallery, a palisade of graffiti highlights a wall representing an ancient Greek column.
As we walk around the gallery, part of a clown’s head and some sculptures of ants make us think that visiting these artists’ studios must be more than interesting!
The back of the gallery, which seems to be the passage between the gallery and the workshops, is just as chaotic! There is a very comic book-like work by Barcelona artist Dante Arcade, which sits alongside one by artist Charlotte Mahdavi aka Ladyspow.
If you walk around the block, you will discover a lot of works and graffiti. But before closing this new Street Art walk I wanted to tell you about one last spot in Poblenou…
Last stop & Street Art spot by the BAU – College of Art & Design of Barcelona
Still in Poblenou, it is a spot not to be missed. Even though the extremely graphic works created by students and graffiti artists on the shutters of this university art centre have been somewhat damaged. Nevertheless, the few streets around are worth a visit.
I wanted to tell you about this last spot because the work that touched me the most is right next to the College of Arts. Created by the Helsinki artist Annetta Lukjanova, this scene was done with great finesse. No flashy colours, with a simple gradation of grey this artist manages to retranscribe an atmosphere, a mood, feelings. My favourite work! When I think that this artist is not yet 30 years old, I believe that we should hear about her in the future, whether for her work in the street or for her paintings on canvas, some of which are breathtaking!
Not far from this work is the very graphic work of Tim Marsh, who has carried out a very special project in Poblenou, which I will tell you about later, and a myriad of lesser-known artists, but who could one day become so!
Will Silicon Valley get the better of street art in Barcelona?
I think it is very clear that the answer is NO! There are too many graffiti artists and they have been in the Poblenou district for too long not to mobilise. What’s more, initiatives to occupy roller shutters and other metal supports such as car park entrances are multiplying. In fact, street art is everywhere in the streets of Barcelona, even in the most exclusive areas. It is true that if you knew Poblenou before, it is a real shock. But other places like Queens or Brooklyn have undergone the same phenomenon and Street Art is still alive. By the way, in a future article I’ll reveal the best place in Barcelona to see graffiti artists live!
Stay tuned because in a few days I’ll take you to the most incredible secret Parking in Paris! And of course if you liked it, share it 😉
See you soon for new Street Art adventures