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Nowadays, Colombia is one of the best places in the Americas for street art. The quality of urban art together with the decentralization of murals to small and medium-size towns make Colombian walls and streets feel alive with colors and messages. Common topics include social commentary, historical characters, cultural heritage, and a reflection about how we relate to nature in modern times. Here’s a compilation of some of the best street art in the country — enjoy.
All photos via Street Art in Columbia.
The picture shows one of the first ones. Created by Blu in 2009, it represents Colombia's dark days of violence and drug trafficking.
New large-scale urban art emerges in the streets of both the capital city and small towns. The picture of JADE’s piece, made in collaboration with Vertigo Graffiti and MDCREW, is just a well-renowned example. For the past 10 years there has been a boom in street art, with growing appreciation from the general public. Now all you need is a property owner’s permission to paint, and there’s even designated public areas for this purpose.
All over the country and all-year long, murals and graffiti are spreading through the urban centers. There are also international festivals taking places in Bogota (like Meeting of Styles), Medellin, Cali, and Manizales, among other cities. On top of that, some cultural organizations carry out sponsored workshops for artists.
That’s the case of Isla de San Andrés, where several street artists got inspired. Stinkfish, for instance, created “urban mirrors” using local people as models for his stencils. Image by Stinkfish.
Even towns two hours away from Cartagena receive artists from different parts of the world that want to contribute to public spaces. They incorporate symbols from the local communities in their designs, so that their pieces end up teaching a little bit of history through images. Picture by Ledania.
This gigantic mural, in Manizales city, portrays Tonra, Fercho and Ecks. The artists in charge of it decided to use elements from local history and to represent its culture and idiosyncrasy.
Urban art forms—informally called “rayones” in Colombian Spanish—invade the streets of Bogota, especially Cra. Séptima Avenue. The design above belongs to Bastardilla, a talented local (female) street artist. Guided tours take visitors to see this and other creations. Many tours are given by expats: former tourists that saw the potential of street art in Colombia and decided to stay, making a business out of it.
This is a depiction of Jaime Garzón, a well-known victim of violence who was murdered for using political satire to criticize corruption in Colombia. This type of graffiti not only honors historical characters, but also fosters freedom of expression.
Toxicómano is one of the most renowned street artists in Colombia. Amongst his multiple urban interventions, this one portrays novelist Gabriel García Márquez. The mural invites people to learn about the work of this indisputable Colombian icon.
Gauche’s interventions not only beautify popular city markets’ walls, but also re-interpret Latin American and indigenous symbols. The piece in the photograph was created with the help of people who work there every day selling fruits and vegetables to support their families. This perfect combination of colors, nature and human shapes synthesizes what our ancestors left us in a fantastic way. Image by Manizales biocultural.
The picture shows only a fraction of the Calle 26 collection of street art in Bogota, a long wall where many pieces refer to the sociopolitical conflicts in Colombia. Street art plays an important role in the public “discussion” of controversial issues. The last thing we lose is hope in the possibility of a better country away from war, drugs, and fear. The mural represents rural inhabitants and their dream of ceasing armed conflicts.
All over the country, abandoned buildings and old houses attract street artists who seek to enhance and re-interpret local urban spaces.
Psylo Sabin and Suku are always working in the south of the country, sometimes in collaboration with artists from Peru and Ecuador. Their designs, which fill the walls with life, focus on the importance of preserving the natural environment and improving the relationship between humans and nature.
In the beloved Getsemaní neighborhood, in Cartagena, Yurika’s interventions add to the aesthetics of a city appreciated for its history and tradition. Because Cartagena's colonial walls have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site over 20 years ago, permits for urban art are hard to get and the artists need to make sure their work is not “offensive.” Getting a permit is actually a big accomplishment that the graffiteros celebrate. Image by Street art utopia.