Street art has never been more visible in the world. While the global pandemic slowed the pace of murals a bit during 2020 and the beginning of this year, it is now back in full swing in most parts of the globe.
Wether they are simple graffitis quickly thrown on the walls or gigantic pieces on buildings’ facades, Street art is visible by most of the urban communities in the world. But not only. Indeed is in the deserts, on the ice banks of Groenland, and in the mountains of Himalaya.
Overview of the major street art and Graffiti cities in the world, starting by North America.
The Mural Festival is an opportunity every June to paint nearly 80 new murals in this city that has already been involved in this longstanding art movement. Under Pressure is an equally important festival held in August. Focused around all things urban culture since 1996, it is the oldest urban festival in North America.
Urban art is all over downtown Montreal. “Aires libres” participates in the ongoing development of the quartier Sainte Catherine. The Old Brewery Mission, a home for the homeless since 1889, hosts a towering mural of the city’s subway system on its walls on St. Antoine Street. There are also many stunning pieces at the Plateau.
Montreal is home to murals by some of the biggest names in street art: D*Face, Felipe Pantone, Kevin Ledo, Inti, Nychos, but also by Other, Botkin, Labrona , Klone Yourself, Gawd, Mateo, Five Eight, A’Shop crew, and many others.
In the United States, some cities have taken stronger artistic directions, aware of the important benefits that this art brings to cities and their attractiveness.
For instance, Oklahoma City has become the 1st Street art city in the US in 2021. A veritable open-air gallery, the city has invested heavily in promoting urban art and artists. Frenemy an American street artist collaborating with DRIP’IN, is participating in this visibility, notably during the realization of an imposing mural on one of the city walls.
The other U.S. cities in the top 10 most involved in street art this year are Cincinnati – Ohio, Richmond – Virginia, Houston – Texas, Philadelphia – Pennsylvania, Reno – Nevada, Detroit – Michigan, Miami – Florida, Atlanta – Georgia, Baltimore – Maryland.
These cities were selected by a panel of professionals and by public vote to decide.
Honolulu is also to be put on the map of cities promoting street art. For more than 10 years in fact, the city has been the subject of murals mostly created by POW POW international. Largely inspired by local culture, they decorate many of the walls of the industrial district Kaka’ako.
[From Left to right] Montreal – Canada, Oklahoma City – USA, New York city – USA.
Street art cities in South America
This is the case of Valparaiso, Chile, considered the capital of street art in Chile. With many houses and buildings decorated in full, some neighborhoods like Cerro Concepción, Cerro Bellavista,and Cerro Alegre are part of these iconic places of the city. Mosaics, anamorphoses, giant murals, the creations are many and varied.
The “Museum A Cielo Abierto” in Cerro Bellavista is a must-see. More than 20 murals, by local and national artists, are on permanent display in this place easily accessible by the historic funicular.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, is not to be outdone. Street art is not considered vandalism in this city, only permission from the owners of the walls is required to make a mural.
In fact, the city is a mishmash of decorative murals mixed with political paintings and Aztec cultural marks. The largest murals were painted as early as 2013 in Villa Urquiza and Coghlan, in these alternating neighborhoods of construction and abandoned wasteland of a highway that was never built. Since then, artists have invaded other parts of the city, such as the neighborhoods of Los Colegiales, Palermo Soho, Chacarita and San Telmo.
Medellin is a city whose name was long associated with drug cartels.
The neighborhood of Comuna 13, was considered in the early 2000s as the most dangerous place in the world. The more stable situation of the last years has brought a transformation of this so particular place.
The murals testify to the years of horror but remain resolutely turned to the future notably through their shimmering colors. The inhabitants are the first to wish this renewal and turn the page of these urban violence which marked them so much.
Bogota has been slow to emerge from the denunciatory graffiti associated with its history of violence. Nonetheless, since the early 2000s, the city has seen a surge in street culture, influenced by Hip Hop culture from the United States, spawning a creative bubbling unprecedented throughout the country.
The scene of the tragic death of the young graffiti artist Diego Felipe Becerra (aka Tripido) in 2011, Bogotá has been a place of eLes xpression of street art since that event.
Other than the annual celebration by artists under the bridge of Avenida Boyacá and 116th Street, the neighborhoods of La Calendaria, Downtown, Distrito Graffiti and la Macarena are the most decorated places in the city.
[From Left to right] Valparaiso – Chile, Buenos Aires – Argentina, Medellin – Colombia.
Street art cities in Europe
European cities have been taken over by artists for many years. Urban art is no longer only visible in capital cities. It is now present in all medium-sized cities and continues its progression in all spaces.
European tour of cities engaged in urban art
London is still considered the street art city of Europe. The neighborhoods of Shoreditch, Camden and the capital’s largest murals participate in this dominant position, but it’s also due to the many pieces scattered around the city, reflections of all the dynamic facets of urban arts.
While London stands out, Bristol is also heavily involved in this culture. Indeed, it is in Bristol that the municipality has defended street art as a major means of expression and has participated in its democratization. The city is now very active, including a festival dedicated to street art, the Upfest.
Paris is also active in challenging London for the title of Europe’s #1 street art city. With entire neighborhoods celebrating artists and urban art, Paris offers a variety of experiences around the art. The 13th arrondissement is home to the city’s most imposing murals, covering entire building facades, while Belleville and the surrounding area are home to more varied graffiti and murals.
Marseille, is also a city where street art is on display in all places. Thus, the quartier du Panier, the oldest district of the city, or the Cour Julien, a graffiti artists’ paradise. Street art is also on display on the walls of La Friche de la Belle de Mai, a former tobacco factory renovated into an artistic venue.
Berlin also plays in the big leagues. The city’s history is reflected in the artistic explosion of the post-war period and the reunification.
Street art is fully in line with this continuity. Indeed, the German capital is the only one in Europe to have so many residential wastelands and third places used by artists for decades. The pans of the old wall as well as the facades are home to some of the best graffiti in the world, and the city has not finished surprising us.
Spain participates in the boom as well. Barcelona, leading Catalonia, hosts pieces on the walls of Carrer de la Selva del Mar, the Carrer de l’Agricultura and the Graffit Forum.
Madrid is active and is recognized as the leading street art city in the country. The murals can be seen mainly in the neighborhoods of Malasaña, La Latina and Lavapiés.
Other cities such as Valencia and Bilbao compete to be part of the national city art tours.
Numerous European cities are choosing to develop urban art to increase their visibility.
Thanks to local associations and initiatives of all kinds, cities like Lodz, Frankfurt, Belfast, Reykjavik or Vilnius are committing to the movement.
[From Left to right] London – United Knigdom, Paris – France, Berlin – Germany, Madrid – Spain.
Street art cities in Africa
While not all countries are at the same level of openness and opportunity, street art has nonetheless exploded across Africa. Some countries are particularly active, such as South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, and Tunisia and Morocco for North Africa.
Johannesburg and Cape Town are the two street art cities in South Africa. The most interesting murals in the former are in the neighborhoods of Newton, Braamfontein, Maboneng and Jozi.
The most popular is a huge elephant painted by local artist Faith on the Signature Lux Hotel in Sandton city.
The Woodstock and the Zeitz MOCAA are home to the most beautiful pieces in Cape Town, though there are walls spread throughout the city.
Spearheading street art for nearly two decades, Kenya is very active and many local artists are recognized on the international scene.
Nairobi and Mombasa are the two cities where urban art is visible. Nevertheless, this art remains rather underground and only a small number of artists are fighting to change the country’s retrograde mentalities and make this art emerge more locally.
Many other countries and cities are opening up to street art
Projects have emerged in Egypt, such as “Perception,” by artist El Seed in Cairo, or the Murais da Leba in Angola.
Likewise street art festivals are growing all over Africa, such as in Kinshasa with the Kingraff” or in Ghana with the Chale Wote Street Art Festival and the Ghana Graffiti which attract crowds.
All of these festivals and artist’s projects work together to make these cities and countries key references in the African art scene.
[From Left to right] Nairobi – Kenya, Cape Town – South Africa, Cairo – Egypt.
Street art cities in Asia
Long underground in Asia, street art has for several years been better accepted by municipalities that are getting involved and allowing walls for large events.
While Japan remains a relatively hermetic country to this urban culture, Korea is evolving and has gradually opened up over the past decade.
In Seoul, urban arts are mostly visible in galleries in the central districts of Anguk, Itaewon or Gangnam.
Some neighborhoods have taken the lead and are now taken by tourists for their murals, such as Seongsu-dong, the “Brooklyn of Seoul,” or the neighborhoods of Mangwon-dong, Seongsu-dong, and Hannam-dong.
Though Korea is one of the leading country in Street art, Southeast Asia has taken the plunge.
Hong Kong is a dynamic art city where artists and organizers of the HK Walls festival regularly paint murals in different neighborhoods. Local artists like Bao are taking the lead and you can see their murals on many walls.
If Hollywood road in Central is the “historic” street with many murals including Hopare or , Wanchai, Aberdeen or Tsim Sha Tsui on the mainland are the neighborhoods with the largest facades in the city.
Behind the Happy Valley racetrack is a cool piece of Space Invader, a dog doing Kung Fu. Initially “buffed” by the city after a few days, the artist came to put it down and it stayed up this time.
Malaysia incorporates urban arts into its cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, which hosts many pieces around Chinatown and Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang.
But it is especially the northern city of Penang, which is very active in this art scene. The district of Georgetown concentrates most of the murals. It is a testament to the city government’s commitment to restoring this neighborhood and making it an open-air museum.
Bid held, the city is a flagship place for street art in Asia and many local as well as international artists come to paint in Penang.
[From Left to right] Seoul – Korea, Hong Kong – Hong Kong SAR, Penang – Malaisia
Singapore is making its mark as one of Southeast Asia’s street art cities. Local artists like Ceno2, famous for his monochromatic sultan painting on the walls of the Singapura Club, are taking over the city and its many nooks and crannies.
International artists also regularly come to paint beautiful murals. They can be found in the districts of Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Haji Lane and Little India, and contribute to making Singapore a colorful city that displays beautiful street art facades.
Taiwan does not spontaneously appear on the Asian street art map. And yet, two cities are vying for the country’s top spot.
Taipei, the capital, has directly allowed street art in areas of the city. Thus, the district of Ximending, is home to the most beautiful murals around America Street and the Taipei Cinema Park. Highly inspired by local culture for robots and superheroes, the murals also incorporate a good deal of Chinese culture especially calligraphy.
Kaohsiung, the country’s third largest city by population, also has an accommodating policy toward street artists, subsidizing murals and promoting the art to beautify facades. Most of the murals are by local artist collective “The Wallriors” and can be found in the Lingya district or at the Pier 2 Art Center.
Some other Asian cities are emerging, thanks to the combined actions of international and local artists. Thus, Phnom Penh in Cambodia is seeing street art develop on its facades at the same time as Yogyakarta in Indonesia, Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket in Thailand.
The latest big Asian cities to jump on the bandwagon are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where street art is coming out of the underground thanks to a softening of the local government and the actions of private and public partners, such as with DRIP’IN and the French Institute of Vietnam during Saigon Urban Art Festival in April 2021.
[From Left to right] Singapore – Singapore, Taichung – Taiwan, Hanoi – Vietnam.
We can’t end this world tour without mentioning Melbourne, Australia. The city is undeniably a pioneer in the promotion of urban arts.
Melbourne’s history is intertwined with that of New York, both in terms of time periods and similarities in development in the same type of urban wasteland space. Proclaimed the “World Stencil City” as early as 2013, it hosted the first international stencil festival the following year.
Melbourne is a city where urban arts culture is supported by all actors. Whether institutional or associative, all work with the artists to transform the city. The public responds and salutes the dynamism of the movement and its positive side.
The most beautiful places in the city promise a total immersion in street art. These are streets like Hosier Lane, Centre Place, AC/DC Lane or the Keith Haring mural that sits on Johnston Street in Collingwood. But also Caledonian Lane, Croft Alley, Duckboard Place, Rankins Lane and Stevenson Lane.