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A Guide to São Paulo Street Art

By Paul Stephen Gettings

Posted: 9th June 2014 14:59

In the world of fine art, it is considered to be vital to see any piece of work in person in order to truly appreciate it. This may be true, but in the world of street art, this assumption is taken to a whole other level.  Guerrilla artists turn blank urban walls into vast, ever-changing murals that can be breath-taking in their scope, beauty and complexity and beg to be seen, if not experienced, in person.  Unlike the masterpieces you see hanging in a gallery; these pieces are usually anonymous or credited to an obscure ‘tag’ or artist signature.  The permanence of these pieces is also never guaranteed; buildings are demolished, walls are painted over or washed clean and other rival artists seek to improve upon their predecessors by literally painting their work away.  It’s collaboration, competition and vandalism all in one.

The Brazilian city of São Paulo is considered to be one of the best cities to experience street art in the world.  In certain neighbourhoods, such as the famed Batman Alley in the suburb of Vila Madalena, there’s barely an inch of bare wall left unpainted, and for many of the graffiti artists and crews, the more difficult-to-reach a visible area is, the more desirable to it to get your art up there.  São Paulo even has its own unique form of graffiti known as Pixação, where the name of the game is to get your crew’s distinctive font on skyscrapers, bridges, and other high buildings.  A truly captivating spectacle.

But street art in São Paulo isn’t all about daredevil paintjobs and street cred.  Often graffiti has a political, satirical or ironic element to it, which came to international prominence in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  One mural stated “Need Food, Not Football”, while others mixed imagery of war, football and Brazilian identity into complex collages. These pieces are often painted close to schools, football grounds and areas that are being developed in preparation for the event, highlighting how even the location of graffiti itself can be a political statement.

As a city with a huge amount of ethnic and cultural diversity, more and more artists in São Paulo are breaking the mould of American-style graffiti and are injecting other styles and influences into the mix to make an incredibly creative and new art form unique to the city itself.  Artists such as Os Gêmeos, Nunco and John Howard are legends in the cultural community, but there’s also an international influence to the city’s art, as graffiti artists the world over are attracted to this graffiti paradise and naturally, can’t resist making their own mark. 

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