Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it, in Athens graffiti is everywhere from simple tags, saying ‘I was here’ to sophisticated, commissioned murals, that have clearly taken time, as well as real talent, to create. One sunny morning I joined a walking tour of Athens to discover more about the city’s street artists.
Everywhere you turn you’ll see it covering shop walls and shutters, kiosks, people’s homes and, sadly, even the gates of churches and some ancient ruins. And it seems that everyone you ask, whether a local or a tourist, says they like the genuine street art but not the seemingly random graffiti that, to most of us, simply looks a mess. Where you draw the line between the two though is entirely a matter of personal opinion.
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With the onset of the economic crisis that so badly affected Greece, the number of street artists in Athens grew and some rather unexpected people joined the ranks, turning to this medium to express their frustrations and anger, such as a dentist, whose business was virtually wiped out, known as Mapet, to the students and graduates of the Athens’ School of Fine Arts, which now run courses on street art. In general, I’m told, the police now tend to turn a blind eye to street artists.
Is commissioned work still street art?
Shops wishing to avoid being covered in mindless scrawl, commission well-known street artists to paint on their shutters. More recently the city authorities have started giving out permits to encourage the artists to paint murals in run-down public spaces. Real estate developers even make commissions to paint murals on commercial buildings. This is not welcomed by everyone, however, as the hard-core graffiti artists feel street art has been hijacked in order to suppress political and social artistic expression.
Looking for more ideas of things to do in Athens? Check out this 2 days in Athen itinerary.
Athens graffiti artists
Whether this is the case or not, is not for me to say but I loved discovering the street art in Athens. It brings the city to life and fills it with colour, sometimes with a political message, sometimes a personal message or sometimes it is simply there for passersby to enjoy. Here are my favourite Athens graffiti artists.
Images of a lost love found all over Athens by Sonke.
Cacao Rocks a former French literature teacher, who lost his job due to the economic crisis.
Wild Drawing, aka WD, born in Bali, Indonesia and now living in Athens, a former student of Fine and Applied Arts.
Alex Martinez, aka Shine, has done a lot of commissioned pieces including the one pictured above on an Athens shop’s shutter. Born in the USA, I believe he now lives in London and I’ll be on the hunt for more of his work there soon!
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Athens, a multifaceted diamond in the rough
I visited Athens as a guest of Marketing Greece, Aegean Airlines and Pallas Athena, part of the Grecotel Hotel & Resort group.
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I love Sonke! My favorite street art spot in Athens has to be the stretch of streets along Psirri, especially around Louka Nika. It’s brimming with colors!
I’ll look that up next time I’m there. Seems ages since I visited.
I love this street art in Athens! Cannot wait to go and see it! 😀
Lovely! I like this kind of art. It gives the youth a chance to express themselves in a positive and a “mostly” beautiful way.
I love street art when it’s done well, but for some reason I didn’t imagine Athens having so much of it. I guess when I think of Greece, I still imagine white buildings and white sand beaches 🙂 What a cool idea to start commissioning artists as a way of keep the art up to par. I’m impressed.
Very interesting! I like the black and white wall the most. The message here is so powerful!
I have been keeping tabs on the street art that is taking the World Cup by storm in Brazil and have been really impressed by some of the quality work that is out there. I know that street art is sometimes given a negative stereotype especially because of the individuals that are renowned for doing this, but there is so much amazing work that goes into this that truly makes it a magnificent sight. It’s also interesting to understand the passion and meaning that goes into this work, in many cases the individuals doing this have deeper insights into the troubles and issues within a city/country. Thanks for sharing this with us Kathryn.
I used to hate this sort of thing, but I watched some artists at work in Southampton a few months ago and it is incredible how much work and thought goes into it. Each is so different too, and actually they brighten up grim areas if done sensibly
That sounds very interesting. I’d thought about checking out Brighton and London but a visit to Southampton but also be worth it! I’ll look into that.
I’m not sure it is quite worthy of a visit though!!!
Athens isn’t often on the radar for street art but these are great images. I especially love the one by Cacao Rocks. Great post!
Thanks Lesley. I never seen so much street art as I did there!
Such amazing pieces! I love how they are all so different and unique. I’ve spent the last week exploring the street art in Lisbon… I think it’s something that can tell us a lot about a place, be it political and social views, or current fashion/artistic trends.
Aren’t they great! I had quite a collection of images to chose from and tried to select a good cross section of examples.
There is some exceptional talent in some of the work there. It’s a pity that some of the realy good examples get ‘tagged’ by the less artistic – you would think there might be some mutual respect going on that means you don’t deface the work of another, but seemingly not…
In the main I think most of the skilled artwork gets left alone, at least for a while – I agree it should be respected by the other ‘artists’. The one exception I know off is when most of the artists disagree very strongly with another’s political opinion as expressed in their work, then it is quite likely to get defaced.
That’s wonderful, I just did a post on street art in the Mission District in San Francisco, also a very popular medium to areas in town that are on the fringe but done with community spirit.
I’m looking forward to checking that out Noel. See you over on your blog in a mo!
I read another post recently on the Athens street art explosion and while I have never been a big lover of graffiti, as most of it seemed more like vandalism, I have grown to be captivated by the commissioned work. Or the work that can really claim to be street art. NOT the “I was here” type of crap you see de-facing walls everywhere.
After visiting Athens, I’m now quite hooked myself!
Great examples, Kat. I saw several shop shutters in Porto with what I guessed was commissioned street art. Like most people, I’d much rather see something like that than angry or senseless scrawls and tags.
I love them and I’ve since been checking out the street art in Brighton and planning to do the same in London soon too.