Time for Expanish Meets.. our monthly spot where Expanish Spanish School in Buenos Aires interviews personalities, experts and business owners from around the Argentine capital. This month we speak to Jonny Robson from graffitimundo to find a bit more about the Graffiti scene in Buenos Aires.
Tell us a bit about graffitimundo (what is it..when, how much etc..)
graffitimundo celebrates the graffiti and urban art of Buenos Aires. The aim of our project is promote the scene and supporting the artists involved, and we do a number of different things to support this aim. We represent artists internationally, curate exhibitions, arrange commissions, sell artwork through a virtual gallery, we produce content for the web, the press and we’re busy making a book and documentary.
For visitors to Buenos Aires we offer regular guided tours of the best art the city has to offer and explain the background to the scene and what makes it so unique. We offer a few different types of tours. The most popular is the group tour, which runs four times a week (Wednesday to Saturday) and costs $90 pesos per person, and we walk and take a minibus through Colegiales, Villa Crespo & Palermo. We also run bike tours on Sunday, and can arrange private tours for anyone who has any special interests. We also arrange stencil workshops for people who’d like to learn the techniques involved and start making their own art. Once overheads are covered, any money we make goes back into the project.
Tell us a bit about why graffitimundo was founded…
When we first moved here we spent months walking around the city, getting to know the barrios and we were blown away by the street art. But at the time, there was no information available for anyone who wanted to learn more. So we spent months getting to know the streets, the art, the artists and their stories. We did a huge amount of research simply because we were really interested in the scene, and the more we learned, the more we fell in love with it. We started thinking of ways we could help promote the artists and share everything we’d learned. The artists we had been talking to were really supportive of the project, so we started running tours, exhibitions and talking to anyone who’d listen about the scene here.
We were looking to get out of London for years. Plenty of our friends had lived in Buenos Aires over the years and everyone raved about it. I used to work at an advertising agency, and we had an office in Buenos Aires so I applied for a transfer. A year later a position came up, so we took the plunge and moved out here. In the early days I was working full time at the agency and took more of a behind the scenes role with graffitimundo. Marina and Jo were the leading the project – both were originally looking for work in Buenos Aires, but were much more interested in putting their energy into something they were passionate about.
Anyone who´s been in BA for more than a few weeks will have noticed Graffiti and street art everywhere. Why is it more prevalent in BA than other cities around the world?
There lots of different cultural and historical explanations for why the scene is so unique. But a simple answer would be that there is more public support for street art in Buenos Aires than there is in other cities, and less of a drive to make every house and every street look the same.
What kind of people do you get coming on your tours?
These days it’s a real mix. When we first started running tours they were mainly young people who where already fans of street art. But now we get a real mix of ages and backgrounds.
Do you have a favorite piece of street art in BA?
I’ve had a number of favorites over the years, but they never last too long. Best not to get too attached to any one particular piece, street art is ephemeral and that’s part of the attraction. A piece you fall in love with may only exist for a few hours before it disappears forever
Do you have a favorite barrio for street art?
Probably La Boca. We have friends who live and paint there and they have created some spectacular pieces for the barrio. Unfortunately it’s not really safe to walk around without being invited into the barrio by a local, but I like the idea that some of the best pieces in Buenos Aires are tucked away in a part of La Boca that nobody ever goes to.
List your top 5 favorite things about Buenos Aires
Warm, friendly people.
Art, music and culture everywhere.
Great steak, wine and ice cream are staples instead of luxuries.
The pace of life.
And your bottom 5…worst!
Travelling is expensive, and Buenos Aires is a long, long way from home.
Dodging dog crap and breathing bus fumes isn’t much fun.
I miss ethnic food…
… and I’d kill for a decent pint of Guinness.
If you could give one piece of advice to newcomers to Buenos Aires, what would it be?
And lastly…we have to ask this. How is your Spanish?
Fluent speaker, hesistant reader, underwhelming writer.
To find out more about the graffiti scene in Buenos Aires or book a Graffitimundo tour go to http://graffitimundo.com/