How to Understand the Street Art in Buenos Aires

street art Buenos aires

A commissioned wall of street art for an upscale restaurant in Palermo Soho

“A commissioned piece of graffiti on your home can actually raise the value of your home in Buenos Aires.” she says in a factual manner. As my brain catches up with my ears, I interrupt our guide and say, “What, can you repeat that last part about increasing the value of your home?”

Clearly I have a lot to learn about Street Art as even as our guide explained it to me I had a hard time believing it. Most of the time I have a hard time understanding street art, so I hoped this walking tour around the graffiti hot spots of Buenos Aires would provide me a better understanding.  Granted – as I stared at the piece of brightly colored wall in front of me created by the street artist Gaulicho – I did find it pleasing. It was bright orange and yellow with his signature psychedelic trademarks of hands and eyes. It appeared playful, and I felt like somewhere in all of those images and jagged lines there was a story. I thought to myself – maybe I am learning to appreciate this type of art after all.

Gualicho's wall

Gualicho’s commissioned wall design

A wall in Palermo where it all started

Graphic Artists and Illustrators first works in 2001.

The small group Graffiti Art Tour In Buenos Aires turned out to be a great way to see and understand the often confusing street art around the city.  But more importantly it was a great way to learn about the history and appreciate the stories behind these unusual artists and creations in their ‘open air galleries’. Our guide started in the Palermo neighborhood in front a piece of street art where this movement really began. She covered the history of how graffiti art began in Buenos Aires and how it has grown into a ‘culture’ in the city. What we normally consider vandalism, Buenos Aires considers highly regarded works of art mainly because it never really had the negative, vandalism connotation as it does in many parts of the world.

The key to understanding street art in Buenos Aires is to learn about how it started. Even though typical ‘tagging’ started in the 90’s out of the hip hop movement, the artistic side that we see around Buenos Aires today really started in 2001. When Argentina had it’s economic crash in 2001, life in Buenos Aires was pretty grim. However, a few talented graphic designers and illustrators wanted to bring some ‘fun’ back in the city and they chose characters to paint on walls to cheer people up. The movement from tags to street art was started.

At each stop she explained the changes in style and the features of various artists. By the middle of the tour I could start to identify works by specific artists around town. And I also had chosen my favorites such as the artist, Mart, who started painting on the streets at the age of 8 and had refined his skills into painting beautiful edgy murals.

Mart's work

A corner with old style tagging on the left and Mart’s new style of murals on the right

I also loved some of the special ‘one-off’ works by visiting street artists which the local artists invited into their projects and provided them with a wall canvas to do their style of work. The haunting eyes on the wall of the power plant by an artist who normally does charcoal drawings was one of my favorites. And then there was the artist who doesn’t like to paint eyes at all – Ever (yes – that’s his name) – who painted a vivid picture of Chairman Mau that I loved.

eyes on the power plant

All eyes on the power plant – one of my favorites!

Ever's take on Chairman Mao

Ever’s take on Chairman Mao

The tour include transportation to various neighborhoods to view specific commissioned works, open air galleries, and it even included a visit to one the studio owned by a few of the more well known Buenos Aires artists – Jaz and Ever. We were able to go into their studio and see their current projects as they do more than simply street art these days.

Visiting Jaz and Ever's studio

Visiting Jaz and Ever’s studio

spray paint bottles

The tools of the trade

We even stopped in the posh neighborhood of Palermo Soho to see commissioned works done for businesses and popular high end restaurants. Apparently these works of street art did increase the value of a home or business.

The tour was more thorough than I had originally anticipated and it easily exceeded my expectations. We finished the 4 hour tour at a gallery/bar that specialized in street art. It was a perfect place to sit, have a drink, and admire art. I was happy to see how it all came full circle into the world of traditional art – in it’s own non-traditional way.

playground graffiti

Playground graffiti

facebook street art

Facebook has even made it into street art. This one translates into “I see what you are doing”

More Information:

Viator Street Art Tour 

Graffitimundo workshops –  Buenos Aires

 For this tour I was a guest of Viator Tours.  However all opinions here expressed are my own.

Your Comments

17 Comments so far

  1. Kate says:

    This is definitely the type of tour I’d like to do. I’m a bit lazy with art but I do really like any type of tour where the historical significance etc is explained. The brightness of the colors is awesome.

  2. Great article.

    We love to stumble upon works on the street in every place we go, not only for our personal relationship with it or for inspiration, but because you can learn a lot about your surroundings. And of course, proper street art is a thing of beauty.

    I kind of have a love/hate relationship with these kinds of tours, though, because I think it’s important for people to discover it on its own. Of course, that’s easily contradictory and paradoxical.

    As long as the tour is about teaching people the importance of the art, the artists, and the history, and not simply to find hidden spots done by [insert hot artist here], I’m all for it.

    Fortunately, you can’t really miss it in Buenos Aires.

  3. We fell in love with all of the art around BA – the colors were fantastic!

    I would have enjoyed seeing the studio!

  4. What a fun tour! And your photos are amazing!

  5. Maria says:

    Great shots of the art and very cool score on the studio tour!

  6. I love most street art, IF it is truly art and not ridiculous stylized letters that spell out the “artist’s” name or initials. That’s just self-promotional graffiti. But what you show is true art and what talent! Love it. BTW – the last photo translates as “I know what you do.”

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks for the translation Barbara. I had asked my guide and she told me – but when I looked it up in Google translate it said something else – so I wasn’t sure what to go with. Either way – it’s pretty accurate don’t you think?!

  7. I love street art and am thrilled to hear that it’s appreciated so much in Buenos Aires! While the eyes are wonderful, perhaps the piece that makes the biggest impact me is the Facebook face… It’s a chilling reminder of this new world we live in and that is what I think street art does best!

  8. Beautiful photos of beautiful art! I love that people are commissioning these pieces for their own enjoyment (and investment!) now.

  9. What a unique piece…hard to believe that graffiti can actually increase a home’s value! I like the one of the eyes too. Reminded me of the “Eyes of Dr. TJ Eckelberg” from Gatsby.

  10. A must-do in Buenos Aires and one of my favorite things about the city.

  11. Buenos Aires has a rich culture and as we all know art comes in many forms. Street artists, like Banksy and so many others have opened this form to the masses on another level. Your shots are giving people privy to some new art, which is always a good thing! Also loved that you linked the workshops in there. I wonder if there will be some art on the new Argentinian pope? I love your shots by the way, I am still hoping to get to see the penguins ;)!

  12. I always seek out street art when I travel somewhere new, whether it’s the sprawling murals like you saw in Buenos Aires, or smaller ephemeral street art like stencils, miniatures, or chalked works. I’m glad to learn the beauty of this type of art form is increasing property values. If I was looking for a home, I’d want one covered with art!

  13. Deb says:

    I’m having a hard time appreciating street art, but maybe it’s ok in Buenos Aires. What my problem is…while we were in Berlin, we heard the same thing about commissioned street art. People will leave your building alone if you hire a graffiti artist to paint it. But people have to do it because that is the only way they will stop people from tagging their buildings. If they paint over graffiti to try to clean it up, guys simply come by the next night and tag it again. I find that it makes cities look ugly. I notice so much of it in Europe and it’s so sad that people are ruining perfectly beautiful buildings. I guess if you can’t beat it, you might as well embrace it.

  14. wow i love art so much.. and seeing this street arts made me wish to go there :) Buenos Aries is one of the place i like to visit, but no budget yet.

    Wow thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and blog of yours :)

  15. Abby says:

    Oh, wow. I had no idea any of the background… I love my photos from walking the streets of Buenos Aires, because of the colorful art. I wish I’d known of that tour!

  16. Jennifer says:

    I love this kind of tour and they seem to be getting more popular. Thanks for sharing

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