Are you an art enthusiast looking for the finest street art the world has to offer, or are you wanting to gain a deeper insight into the cultures of the places you visit? Then make sure you visit these 3 locations, the homes of the world’s best street art.
Mumbai: Bandra is a hotspot for art
Traditionally famed for its food, festivals and Bollywood culture, Mumbai has become increasingly renowned for its street art. Bandra is perhaps the most famous location in the city for street art, with an accessible hotspot in the neighbourhood featuring a huge range of different art.
Themes vary from huge cultural influences like Bollywood to the city’s maritime history. Musings about the current state of Mumbai are also well represented, with clear disdain shown towards issues such as nuclear weapons and the effect of modern technology on society.
As well as paintings from professional street artists, a number of campaigns have been run that encourage the public to contribute. For example, Bandra ran the The Wall Project, a volunteer led initiative which worked to liven up public spaces with colour, form and texture, starting from a blank wall and allowing people to paint what they wanted to. Contributors were discouraged from drawing politically charged paintings in order “to make the area more alive and generate a feeling among people who pass by it daily…with no political, social or religious attachments.”
Installation art is also being introduced to Mumbai’s public spaces. Last year, art initiative ArtO2 organised Encounters: Bori Bunder @ Platform 8, a temporary exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station. Owais Husain was one of those to exhibit. His contemporary installation, You Are Forever, stacked steel trunks to form a screen where a video about three rivers incarnated as sisters was played. The installation explored cultural shifts from one place to another and inspired memories of travel.
Bogota: Legalised graffiti reigns supreme
Another place acclaimed for its street art is the Colombian capital of Bogota. Prior to 2011, graffiti was a crime in Bogota, stifling the work of street artists and forcing them to work clandestinely. However, when 16-year-old street artist Diego Felipe Becerra was unjustly shot to his death by police whilst spray-painting, the resulting outcry kickstarted a huge shift in the city’s tolerance towards street art.
Graffiti has since become an acceptable form of cultural and artistic expression rather than a crime. Some have argued that the latitude to paint throughout the city has in turn led to more detailed, thoughtful pieces than in other cities throughout the world, where work is often done hastily at night to avoid the authorities. Unlike in India, the subjects painted on the walls of Bogota are much more dominated by political issues. Women’s rights, Colombia’s violent past and climate change all feature prominently.
However, plenty of the street art in Bogota is purely decorative. Some business owners even commission graffiti artists to turn their walls into murals in an effort to protect them from the poor quality drawings of amateur artists.
With over 8,000 artists in the city, the scene is dominated by a number of renowned collectives. This includes the Animal Power Crew/Cult and Bogota Street Art Collective. Formed over a decade ago, APC have expanded their work globally. Each individual artist is different, but they often follow similar themes with animals unsurprisingly a key subject. The street art scene in Bogota has attracted worldwide attention, with Justin Bieber even visiting the city to paint his own street art in 2013.
Berlin: Art that reflects the city’s past, present and future
Berlin’s street art scene stems from the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, with the West side of the wall an obvious place for the Berlin public to vent their frustrations during the Cold War. After the wall fell in 1989, citizens could finally reach the East side and although most of the wall was demolished, graffiti remains on the small sections that still stand.
The disparity in the content of the art on both sides makes for an intriguing comparison. Aside from the Wall, today the streets of Berlin are home to some of the best street art in the world. Notable examples include BLU’s giant pink man on the side of a building at the western end of the Oberbaum Bridge in Kreuzberg, and El Bocho’s Little Lucy, a character that can be found across the city. There is slightly more conventional art too, with artist MKO drawing large black and white murals of celebrities including Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix.
With two 46-foot-tall exhibition spaces, the world’s biggest street art museum was opened in the city in September 2017 and features art from local and international artists alike. The Urban Nation Museum for Contemporary Art is located in Bülowstraße and was designed in collaboration with architecture bureau GRAFT. The museum’s surfaces and structures are canvases for much of the art and is combined with collections of paintings and design work.