Barcelona has been and it is one of the epicentres of European street art, inspired by many worldwide artists. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city, but you will see that there are many subcultures and street art or graffiti is certainly a way of expression, no different than writing or painting on a piece of paper.
Right in the city centre, near plaça Catalunya is Raval neighbourhood, the area itself is different from the rest, full of vintage shops, quirky bars, and skate scene is also full of pieces of contemporary art. There are posters, stickers, graffitis on the walls and other urban ways of art. In the Born area, there are also expressions of urban art in alley-ways, doors and old buildings.
My recommendation if you want to discover Barcelona graffitis is to walk around the city on a Sunday when the shops are closed and you can see clearly the shutters and discover urban canvases on them. You can be indulged by the art of local artists such as Stencil X, Kram, Alice, Invader, Miss Van, Zosen, Btoy and Pez among others.
Street art history in Barcelona
Barcelona was one of the world capitals of the urban art or called street art, you could see in Barcelona walls international artists known all around. However, everything changed in 2006 as now painting on the street can cost you 3000 euros.
For some it is art, for others is vandalism but it is true that even though the fine set to 3k has not been a huge help in promoting street art it hasn't stopped the art coming into the streets.
The street art started right after the Olympics, is when Barcelona was located on the map for many foreigners, started the low cost city and the mass tourism as well. The city started to be seen as a centre for design, fashion and art and creativity internationally.
Montana colors, the biggest graffiti company in the world was born in Barcelona, after its first product launch a spray for the graffiti everyone in Europe started to find out about the brand. The brand until nowadays is one of the pioneers in the sector and it has opened in more than 60 countries.
The music originated the graffiti or the street art, in the late 80'smany graffiti artists danced break, we could say that music is what started the movement that then evolved into other disciplines.
There was a moment in time in the 2000s that NYC and Barcelona were the most important cities in regards of the urban art in the world, right before the restrictions and the fines came up in 2006.
From 2006 things changed due to many factors, Barcelona wasn't this unknown city anymore but a city visited by more than 8 million people. At that time if you walked through the Raval there was no centimetre left without paint and this created controversy.
The 2006 fines for painting in public spaces affected the graffiti world, some changed how they did things, others painted indoors, some artists started their career in galleries, some others stopped painting or left town.
In my opinion, graffiti is a form of art and although I believe this had to be regulated I also think that there was a before and after this prohibition of graffiti that had no dialogue or no other form of expression.
The bad thing is that in the process when the fines were established, there were valuable graffitis being destroyed and now from these works might only remain a sad 1%.
The urban art is not the enemy and cities like Toronto, Berlín, Filadelfia or neighbourhoods from NY are doing their homework and promoting street art and graffiti, Barcelona will need to find a way to allow street art to flow in an organized manner and with the help of the administration. Let's discover together the graffiti world in Barcelona!
Graffiti areas in Barcelona
There are different graffiti areas in Barcelona, one of them is el Raval and the Gothic, Gràcia has broken up into the street art scene but Poblenou is also on the agenda as to what street art concerns. Let's go around these areas.
To understand the changes through street art in Barcelona, it is important to know that the Barcelona Olympics were a breaking point and transformed the city to one of the most rejuvenated cities.
Street art in Raval
Since the Olympics transformation, Barcelona went through a physical cleanup, graffiti and street art included. In Spain by law if a public space is being used for graffiti there are fines of 3000€. From 2012 more public spaces dedicated to graffiti have opened with the blessing of the city hall that is promoting street art and collaboration among artists to create masterpieces together. Raval and Gràcia have deloped its artist inside and graffitis have appeared all over the place, check out this street art route through Raval and Gràcia.
Street art in el Born and Gothic
El Born is an incredible neighbourhood, historically is where all the artisans were located, entrepreneurs, artists and of course graffiti is also a part of the neighbourhood's vibe. Check out this street art tour in el Born
Street art in Poblenou
Poblenou neighbourhood began its transformation from its past of factories and industrial area to a hi-tech office block, stylish hotels and the Palo Alto area of startups in Barcelona. The abandoned factories have been demolished and converted into offices, but others are standing waiting for its next step and they have been transformed on the meantime as the white papers for local artists converting it into a gallery of street art.
Paint in public space it is forbidden by law but lately in the last 5 years a lot of things have changed, and in 2012 a group of urban artists organized through a project called Murs Lliures - Free Walls- and with collaboration with the City Hall they agreed to designate some walls to be able to be painted freely by the urban artists. The centre of murs lliures is the Plaça de les Tres Xemeneies in Poblenou area, the scenario and paintings change every week.
The most famous graffiti in Barcelona
Graffitis are volatile paintings, it is a very fast environment, graffitis come and go but there are some that with no doubt make a difference and are famous because of that. Here you have my personal selection of the most famous graffiti in Barcelona
Amy Winehouse by Btoy
Andrea Michaelson is a Barcelona-born graffiti artist, who works professionally as Btoy. She is inspired by strong women as Amy Winehouse and here is this impressive graffiti. She chooses decrepit surfaces in purpose to create her art which makes the graffiti stand even more. Btoy has exhibited her work in galleries around the world in Morcco, Greece, Mexico and Bosnia among others.
In 1989 an American artist called Keith Haring a painted a mural containing his signature iconography on an inclined wall in Plaça Salvador Seguí. At some point the mural was gone and the MACBA reproduced this work in a wall outside the museum and you can see it there since 2014
This one as an epic graffiti located in Gràcia neighbourhood in Barcelona in Verntallat street. Is the main characte of the series Breaking Bad called Walter White. The quality of detail in the portrait is incredible, it looks like a picture and the colors are just incredible and my opinion is that evokes a bit this dichotomy of the character that has two sides.
Agora Juan Andres Benitez
There is a space in Raval district that commemorates a tragedy that happened in 2013. It was the death of a neighbour in the Raval called Juan Andres Benitez, that died in police custody. The site is not used for the community as an art space but the wall wants to witness and serve as a protest for those events.
Whitney Houston, an incredible voice of all times left us in 2012 but it comes back with the tribute that Guaté paid to her in this wall at the neighbourhood of El Raval in Barcelona.
Christian Gwemy, called C215, is a French artist from Paris that has the ability to create vibrant graffitis many of them portraits. It reminds me a bit of Banksy. Graffiti artists tend to do massive art pieces but C215 prefers to make the same impact but with smaller pieces, a virtue not everyone has.
Tres Xemeneies Park (Three Chimneys Park)
The Three Chimneys Park in Avinguda Paral·lel is one of these public spaces that the city hall gave to street artists to produce their art and be seen. Since those are "public" walls to be painted, they change frecuently, so you won't get tired of seeing the same graffiti all over again. If you want to get a taste of street art in Poblesec area check out the street art tour in Poblesec.
Barcelona Street art walking tours
I have pointed out through the post to street art routes in Barcelona that you can do on your own, but street art for me is something that it is difficult to understand unless you know the context and/or the intention. I would encourage you take an organized route if you want to go deeper into the topic.
There are companies and locals that offer guided tours through the graffiti and street art in Barcelona. There is a graffiti route organized by Cayetana Gomis Fletcher, she is a historian, tourism guide, and a heritage agent. She offers tours through Trip4real and explains how the city evolves and the street art with it. She explains in her blog that although every time the tour might be a little different, she has 3 must stops: Hospital de la Santa Creu (Raval), Santa Llucia (Ramblas) and Petritxol street. The tour starts in Plaça Nova and includes a visit through Ciutat Vella at the temple of graffitis.
There is a company in Barcelona focused on street art tours called Barcelona street art style tours, they offer two different kind of tours, two different walking tours one through Born and Gothic and another one through El Raval. They offer a street art bike tour as well through Poblenou, covering this way the most important street art and graffiti important points in the city.
Since we were focused on Graffiti, it is interesting to know that there is a Graffiti Hostel in Barcelona located very close to the Sagrada Familia. All rooms are exterior and overlooking the terrace, and they are originally decorated with graffiti drawings and are named after European cities or important monuments or places in Barcelona. There are spacious public areas, free wifi and also computers with internet access for guests. You get laundry service, towels and blankets for rent, the sheets are included.
Disclaimer: street art is constantly changing, it might be that by the time you visit the area new paintings have appeared.