"Street Art Tourism" Is Capturing More Attention
Eco-tourism is so popular for vacation travelers right now. You know, treading light and your carbon footprint and all that. Then there is Plastic Surgery Tourism for those whose nose is slightly twisted or who otherwise feel your personal epidermal brand could use a "refresh". For half the price of back home why not travel to a fashionable cosmetic surgery destination and you won't have to worry about someone seeing you buying brie at Balducci's with a bandaged beak.
In the wake of the global growth of interest in art in the streets, one form of tourism that may soon be blowing up could be graffiti excursions, street art sightseeing, or even mural journeying. New York has been a magnet for years for aerosol artists calling us to help them hit up walls while they are on "spraycation," but this is just the opposite.
You may wish to plan your trip abroad hunting the elusive wheat-pastes, stencils, fill-ins, hoping to capture an exotic local throwie. And why not take a few selfies with your favorite works by street artists that you only previously saw on Instagram?
Street art photographer Stephen Kelley went on his own art safari last month in Lisbon, Portugal with his fiancé and he checked out a lot of the work that has been organized during the past couple of years by the internationally known local VHILS and some of his friends in a project entitled Underdogs.
"Underdogs is an international working platform based in Lisbon, Portugal that aims at creating space within the contemporary art scene for artists connected with the new languages of urban visual culture," say the organizers, and they have curated a program of some large-scale pieces around the city in an intelligently grand and contextual manner that makes them seem like the installations have been there for decades, not a handful of years. Urban or contemporary, it has serious fans.
Today Mr. Kelley shares with BSA some of the shots he got during a relatively short trip to Lisbon, along with some of his experiences and observations.
"In preparing for the trip we used the Underdogs project as one of the references for the map," he says. "I was able to convince my travelling partner and fiancé to rent an apartment in the Bairro Alto area. This was a good central point for the spots I wanted to hit. We were only in town for three days so I had to balance your standard tourist locations with my off-the-beaten-path art spots. She appreciates the work and is incredibly patient but I can only get away with dragging her into so many back alleys and train tracks."
"Immediately after leaving the airport the taxi unintentionally drove us by a block-long Os Gemeos, Blu, Sam3, Ericailane, and Lucy Mclauchlan mural. We told the taxi driver that I was in town to shoot art in the streets and in buildings. He mentioned I should check out this street where a group of artists painted a series of murals about the local government administration. I put that on the list," says Kelley.
"We decided to take a taxi to the area where I had located some C215 work. The taxi driver asked why we were going to that location/area," says Kelley. "Once we arrived at the location I brought him with us to show him the art. He was incredibly impressed with the C215 mural I showed him and said he'd bring driving in town for 25 years and had never been on that street or never seen the artwork."
"One evening in town we took a ferry over to Almada with a great view of the 25 de Abril Bridge (the same architect who designed the Golden Gate Bridge)," says Stephen. "You can walk up the coast toward the bridge and there are two quaint eateries that make for a perfect sunset meal or drink. The waterfront is covered with graffiti and is a good representation of the art in the area."
As with any vacation, planning your means of transportation is key -- and Kelley and his girl realized Lisbon is not quite as pedestrian friendly as other cities, mainly because of the topography. "One of the first spots we hit was the harbor area for the Pixel Pancho and Vhils collaborations. After that, with intentions to continue to explore, we had our first encounter with the hills of Portugal," he says. "The taxi driver had reminded us that Portugal is the city of seven hills. He was not kidding, walking the streets of Lisbon is no joke and a workout and a half. We quickly realized public transit or taxi was the best way to see Lisbon."
Like most tourists on vacation, the events that make the most impact may be the unplanned surprises, like actually seeing work in progress. Stephen explains, "One day we started to head toward the Belem Tower and a How Nosm mural. On the way we ran into Vhil's in progress working on a water tower outside the World Photo Press exhibition at the Museu da Electricidade. I tried to wait for more action shots but he was taking a break and I couldn't wait."
"I also recommend taking a trip up to the castles in Sintra. It's a 30-minute train ride from the center of Lisbon. The castles are breathtaking and shouldn't be missed. Sintra was one of the highlights of the entire stay. The train ride also gave me an opportunity to see all the trackside graffiti that is quite common in Europe. The highway and train graffiti are very common, which was much different than what I am accustomed to in the US," says Kelley.
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