Friday, 22 April 2016

26. Portraits of Barcelona

Barcelona used to be a great city for street art. Who would expect anything less from the birthplace of Antoni Gaudi and a host of other architects who promoted the value of colour in urban design:

Casa Amatler (left) by Puig i Cadalfach and Casa Batllo (right) by Antoni Gaudi

Casa Chino by Fernando Guardiola

A city whose favourite colour is polychrome:

Torre Agbar (photo via Atelier Jean Nouvel)

Barcelona has always loved to strut its colours.

Or at least it did until 2005, when the city's over-zealous guardians began flexing their muscles. Having random acts of artistry popping up on Barcelona's streetscapes just didn't fit with their image of the city as a la-di-da world-class destination. So, out came the whitewash and long rollers; in came by-laws and regulations; and, down went Barcelona's reputation as a city where subversive art would be, if not venerated, then at least tolerated.

That's not to say that Spain's second-largest and most outward-looking city is now free of street art. Quite the contrary. The city may be down, but it's not out. In 2015, Barcelona was chosen as having two of the top-20 most stunning street art projects in the world.

The first, by Axe Colours, you'll recognize as everyone's favourite meth producer:

Walt White from Breaking Bad.

The second, by ManuManu, and with a nice touch of 3D, is known more generically as La Cubana (the Cuban woman):

In this spirit of great portraiture, we'd like to share with you a small sampling of our Barcelona favourites. Some you'll recognize, like this portrait by Balu (Naiz) of Peter Dinklage, better known as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones:

The stencilled skull of zombie Andy Warhol, ironically shown without any colour whatsoever:

The equally dead, but somewhat more colourful Amy Winehouse by Btoy:

Paste-ups of those great America cultural icons, and all-around good parents, Gomez and Morticia Adams:

Madonna and Friends

And if you're a bona fide street-art aficionado, you might even recognize Feeling Blue by the wonderfully named Vegan Bunnies.

There were others that we couldn't quite recognize, so don't feel badly if you can't either:

Strange as it may seem, the celebrity whose image you'll most often see on the streets of Barcelona, isn't a TV or rock star. It's not even a person. It's none other than Pez the Fish, a name that's somewhat redundant given that "pez" means "fish":

Pez (the fish) was created by El Pez (the street artist) in 1999 as a symbolic way of signing his name. Not long after, Pez and his giant smile became a character in its own right. Then a star flashing across Barcelona. His image and his fame spread across Spain and now you might find him popping up just about anywhere in the world. Pretty good for a celebrity who only really exists in the mind of his creator.