Street art isn’t something I ever thought I’d be writing about on this blog, yet I’ve become intrigued by it since my recent visit to Athens. Not to the extent that I’ll be picking up a spray can any time soon, you understand, but I’d certainly like to get my camera out and capture some more images.
I find the whole subject fascinating – its origins, its use as a form of expression by youngsters wanting to be heard, and as a form of political communication.
Clearly in Athens during the recent economic crisis and recession, graffiti and street art have become communication channels for unemployed and underemployed youngsters looking to express their anger and hopelessness.
There’s obvious talent here and a high degree of creativity. A little research reveals that many street artists in Greece trained at the Athens School of Fine Art, which offers lessons in street painting.
You can’t help but stop and look.
Yet at times you can’t help thinking that it’s gone too far. Graffiti on newly opened cafes and bars that are helping attract tourists and drive the economic recovery, and on the fencing of a beautiful church strike as less positive chord.
We were taken on a street art tour during my time in Athens organised by tech start-up Dopios. The idea behind the company is genius. They connect you with locals in the city you’re visiting who can then offer you personalised tours, information and advice.
Our guide Manolis Iliopoulos was an expert in street art and was able to show us many hidden gems around the city and tell us more about the artists behind the work, their backgrounds and the specific techniques they use.
Apparently the police typically turn a blind eye to street artists, which is why so many new pieces keep appearing around the city. There is also the belief in Athens, we were told, that public spaces belong to no body, which is why you’ll find street art and graffiti on store fronts, telephone kiosks, market stalls, abandoned properties and on virtually every available surface.
Not all visitors to Athens will appreciate it, but I’d highly recommend a street art tour if you’re interested in finding out more about it. Easy to dismiss it as mindless vandalism, it’s worth withholding judgement and taking some time to understand it a little more.
I travelled to Greece with Marketing Greece for a 4-night stay as part of the BlogTrotters Greece tour. You can find out more about street art tours offered by Dopios on their blog. Prices start at £38 for two people. Also worth looking at is ASAF for information about the Athens Street Art Festival.