Street Art: Madrid

Text + Photos: Mike Blanchard

Arts  |  Stalking through Lavapies after midnight you come around a corner and find yourself blown away by a painting on a steel rollup door. The ancient working-class neighborhood once known for its grit and cultural diversity has many artistic surprises in the dark. 

There is a cultural appreciation of fine art. As you wander around Madrid the realization dawns on you that street art is as significant and well done as anything found in the formal bastions of modern art. The greatest, and yet un-named gallery is the city itself. No blue jacketed docent to tell you “No photo Señor, no photo” while wagging their finger at you. Themes repeat as you explore other parts of the city. “Hey I saw that guy in La Latina over by Mercado De La Cebada.” 

This process is a universal truth of art.

As you walk past the huge museums and see the tourists lining up to get in. Past a line several hundred yards long of people clutching their guidebooks telling them not to wander too far from the shiny streets because of pickpockets and god knows what. They are missing the vital now of art. The stuff by obscure and anonymous (and the well know within their circles) artists that is the ongoing process, the live growth of art. The art that is always shunned at first and then eventually collected and sold by cognizenti who knowingly claim to have “known him in the old days.” This process is a universal truth of art. The shunning followed by the accolades.

And part of the attraction is the sense that there is no permanence to this form. Notwithstanding the bandwagon vultures cutting out sections of buildings to get a Banksy. Most of this will fade or be painted over. It shines like the noon sun and then fades into night.