On a recent trip to Greece, I was stunned by the explosion of colorful walls of jarring graffiti and street art in the Monastiraki, Plaka, Thissio, Exarchia, and Syntagma neighborhoods of Athens compared to just a year ago. The street art scene of Athens has been transmogrified from a niche subculture into a widely-accepted expression of political and social opinion by local street artists. To merely say the subculture was transformed wouldn’t sufficiently capture the dramatic change in the street art landscape in Athens.
In most people’s minds the connotations of the words “street art” and “graffiti” are one in the same, and often associated with vandalism, urban plight, and decay. In both cases, they are “art on the street,” however there are significant differences that separate the two. Graffiti is illegal and typically used as a self-expression for urban youth. Street art, on the other hand, is often done by artists with formal training with permission or commissioned.
According to a local Travel Agency, Alternative Athens, the New York Times calls Athens “a contemporary mecca for street art in Europe.” Apparently, Athens has joined London, Berlin, New York, and Paris in the ranks of cities with a vibrant street art scene. For those interested in the urban culture of Athens, the Alternative Athens Travel Agency offers a street art tour of Athens.
Sad curly-haired girls created by the street artist, Sonke, can be found all over Athens.
I came across a lot of graffiti in the back streets of Plaka. The graffiti was painted mainly on old abandoned buildings. Sad to see, but from what I understand, this is a statement of the difficult economic times in Greece.
Graffiti or art? You decide.
This post was inspired by this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Transmogrify.