Buenos Aires' Street Art

Because Painting Is Beautiful

Argentine culture is as captivating and unique as it is diverse and varied. Influenced by colonial Europe, with strong Spanish and Italian undertones, this hot fusion can be found in different areas, from film, music and dance, to architecture, art and even sport.

Buenos Aires Street Art Che Gevara Mural in San Telmo
Che Gevara Mural in San Telmo

Buenos Aires, between its museums, galleries and street art, has recently become a landmark venue for many artists, but also an increasingly recognised and popular destination. Compared to Paris, the capital of Argentina is already a reference in the wide world of contemporary art.

Tortuga de Martin Rob
Tortuga de Martin Rob

Buenos Aires is one of a handful of major cities to have legalised graffiti. This lack of regulations allows and encourages many artists to take their creativity to the streets. A form of expression initially reserved mostly for political purposes, with explicit slogans and messages painted in public places, Buenos Aires’ street art has also grown to be more sophisticated, evolving from simple words and clever stencils to bigger, brighter and much more elaborate murals. Even though there’s always a message embedded in each and every creation, not all of them are as politically charged as they used to be. Rather than make you ponder for minutes, some of them simply put an instant smile on your face.

With the City’s welcoming attitude towards street art, local artists are also being joined by well-known international street artists, who are coming to Buenos Aires and adorning empty, ugly surfaces with masterpiece after masterpiece; bringing this urban art form, particularly in this city, to a whole new level.

Madres de Plaza
Madres de Plaza

A few years back, most of the artistic graffiti works could be found in and around the Palermo neighbourhood, but since then they’ve gradually spread all across the city. With the City’s welcoming attitude towards street art, local artists are also being joined by well-known international street artists, who are coming to Buenos Aires and adorning empty, ugly surfaces with masterpiece after masterpiece; bringing this urban art form, particularly in this city, to a whole new level.

Over the past decade, the walls of Argentina’s capital city have become a collective canvas for a boom in street art – with many works meant to beautify public places. Although this practice is technically illegal, the police mostly look the other way, and portenos – or Buenos Aires residents – even commission pieces from an expanding stable of artists.

Mural Tango
Mural Tango

A banner at the top of the wall mural in Colegiales, a mostly residential neighbourhood near Palermo, proclaims the street artist’s manifesto: Porque pintar es lindo – because painting is beautiful.

The artists use different methods. Some work with household paint and brushes, others with aerosol cans or stencils with paint. Subjects range from “traditional images with a twist” – such as an Argentine gaucho, or cowboy, holding a rock guitar, by Stencilland – to political statements.

To be clear, street art differs as an art form from graffiti, which emerged in New York and France in the 1960s and was later adopted as a written form of hip-hop. A territorial language, graffiti doesn’t mean anything in particular to most people. Street art, on the other hand, belongs to the people.

Various artists have trademark styles. One artist called Gualicho dreams up “surreal mystical landscapes” of interconnected building parts, animals and plants – all with a “darker edge.” Jazz was partial to donkeys, but only for a while – he’s now into painting wrestlers and rowdy football fans. There are Nerf’s cubist 3-D shapes, shadowed with impeccable freehand. One of the few female street artists, Zumi draws inspiration from nature for her peaceful yet disorderly scenes of blooming flowers and teeming oceans.

Street artists don’t run with the standard art crowd, their works are more accessible. It’s not in a museum or a gallery, rather it’s open art that anyone can appreciate.

Juan Carlos Rincon Lobo dedicated to Argentina and the drink mate
Juan Carlos Rincon Lobo dedicated to Argentina and the drink mate

This is not to say that street art is a solo activity: just as it takes two to tango, it took several artists to make many of the tableaux (15 artists created the power-station mural, for instance). The artists – most of whom do street art part-time – often meet on Sundays to throw back some beer, crank up the radio and literally paint the town.

One of the city’s most prolific stencil artists goes by the moniker Rundontwalk. Suddenly, on a wall in the fashionable area of Palermo Hollywood, named for its many TV studios, he shows us street art in action.

Street artists don’t run with the standard art crowd, their works are more accessible. It’s not in a museum or a gallery, rather it’s open art that anyone can appreciate.

City authorities don’t always approve of street art on public buildings, many of which have historic value and shouldn’t be touched. But they enjoy street art when it’s “high quality,” and not depressing or violent. “Treating downtrodden areas in a proper way. By having art, people will care.”

La Boca
La Boca

City authorities doesn’t always approve of street art on public buildings, many of which have historic value and shouldn’t be touched. But they enjoy street art when it’s “high quality,” and not depressing or violent.

Indeed, street art is popping up more in some historically rough districts, such as San Telmo, a once ritzy area that fell on hard times and is now prospering again. The area boasts a popular mural of Che Guevara, for instance, which conveniently doubles as a PSA for practising safe sex. An eclectic mix of colonial-style buildings, Catholic churches and Evita-era monoliths, San Telmo is also known for its Sunday feria, or flea market, which springs up weekly along the main drag, Defensa.

Front of Cenrto Cultural in Buenos Aires
Front of Cenrto Cultural in Buenos Aires

The famous Plaza de Mayo, the long-time stage of Argentine sedition, is where first lady Eva Peron roused the shirtless masses from the balcony of the Casa Rosada, or Pink House. The large square is also where the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo gather for Thursday vigils for their missing children, many of whom were kidnapped and killed in the 1970s during Argentina’s Dirty War. Their symbol, a haunting white headscarf, is painted on the ground in the plaza and on buildings throughout the city – as a reminder that the mothers are still awaiting justice.