1983 - 2013

The Talking Walls of Buenos Aires 

graffitimundo

A tradition of art, activism and popular expression. 
May 2014
Public walls used to promote participation in a referendum over the Beagle conflict., Monica Hasenberg, 1984/1984, From the collection of: graffitimundo

The walls of Buenos Aires have been used as a tool for communication and expression for as long as anyone can remember. 

Silhouttes of the disappeared, Monica Hasenberg, 1983/1983, From the collection of: graffitimundo

When thousands of clandestine abductions and murders took place under a brutal military regime, activists used public walls to raise awareness of the scale of the disappearances.

March against injustice, 1986, Monica Hasenberg, 1985/1985, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Throughout the city's turbulent history art has been an essential tool for activism, resistance and communication.

Street scene, Almagro, Buenos Aires, From the collection of: graffitimundo

The return of democracy saw the repressive power of the state wane. The city walls became covered in layer upon layer of commercial messages, political propaganda, graffiti and written messages.. 

Argentine Crisis, 2002, Carlos Brigo, 2002, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Following a brief period of illusory prosperity, the city plunged into depression following the catastrophic collapse of the financial system in 2001 sparking widespread protests and riots in the streets.

Woman participating in a "cacerolazo", Carlos Brigo, 2002, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Street protests took many forms. The "cacerolazo" spread throughout the city travelling at the speed of sound, as furious citizens clashed pans together, venting their anger and frustration at the government. 

Argentine Financial Crisis, 2002, Carlos Brigo, 2002, From the collection of: graffitimundo
Untitled, Chu, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

In the aftermath of the crisis, new forms of expression emerged. Groups such as DOMA & FASE tried to bring levity and a smile back to the walls of a city ravaged by the crisis. 

Untitled, Tec, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo
Street scene, Almagro, Unknown, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

The crisis saw an explosion in stencil art. A long established tool for activism, stencils have been used in the streets of Buenos Aires for over a century. A technique used for promotion and activism was subverted by artists who concocted a potent  blend of surreal imagery and scathing social commentary. 

Untitled, Enzor, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Inspired by the sudden explosion of creative expression in the streets, a new generation of artists emerged who explored techniques from design, illustration and graffiti.

Untitled, Zumi, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Artists began creating increasingly elaborate works, taking advantage of space offered by thousands of abandoned buildings throughout the city. 

Untitled, Various artists, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

A spirit of solidarity and cooperation lead to huge collaborative works being created throughout the city, as groups of artists worked together to transform public space.

Untitled, Mart, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Many people embraced this flourishing scene, giving artists permission to use their walls for creative experimentation.

Untitled, rundontwalk, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

Local businesses contracted artists to create murals, reclaiming their walls from political groups who had appropriated public space for propaganda. 

Untitled, Jaz, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

The turbulent history of the city and it's complicated relationship between  repression and expression has nurtured the talents of a generation who have developed their skills in a city which supports their work. The lack of money and access to materials provoked innovative new techniques. This piece was painted with tar, petrol and minimal use of red aerosol. 

Untitled, Blu, 2010/2014, From the collection of: graffitimundo

The city's reputation for creativity has attracted artists from around the world, who come to Buenos Aires to experience the freedom of painting its walls and to participate in this unique tradition of public expression. 

Credits: Story

Curator — Jonny Robson
Photography — Monica Hasenberg, Carlos Brigo, graffitimundo

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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