When researching my trip to Lisbon, I came across the local street art pretty early on. Other bloggers and travel sites were reporting an incredibly vital scene and it did not take me long to decide to book a tour. I followed the advice of various travel sites who all recommended Lisbon Street Art Tours (we do not receive any favours for recommending them here). Our guide, can’t remember her name (I’m pretty sure it started with a ‘V’), sorry, was a young lady from Belgium, who studies street art at the local uni and is currently working on her thesis on Lisbon street art. Not only was she pleasant to listen to, with her shy, enthusiastic, bubbly nature, but most of all she obviously had to hold herself back on a constant basis in order not to overwhelm us with the vast knowledge she has accrued about her area of expertise. She lives and breathes street art and knows many of the artists in person, regularly speaks with them, knows what they were thinking when they created their art work, and sometimes even knows the precise circumstances of when it happened, such as “last week apparently policemen passed by twice while she did her work, but they did not say anything, presumably they thought it was a commissioned piece of work, even though it wasn’t. Generally the police are pretty relaxed here in Lisbon though, anyway”.
It is great to see how Lisbon’s top brass value street art as something that is enriching their city, something that attracts tourists and makes life for locals more enjoyable. They have commissioned their own open air street art museum: GAU – Galeria de Arte Urbana or the Urban Art Gallery under the auspices of the city’s culture and heritage department as a location for street artists to let loose. Every now and then street artists are asked to apply for a spot on the dedicated walls, then a jury decides who can have a go. A few months later it starts all over again. What an awesome idea! Of course there are still many cases where residents are less than enthused when someone paints their walls and the city does regularly paint over many of the artwork, which is – at least in some cases – quite understandable.
Well, enough said, here are the highlights (yes, only the highlights, we passed by a gazillion more, often very large, and also often brilliant pieces, but hell, don’t want to risk a cramp in your trigger finger, right?).