Belgrade can appear like a vast open-air gallery. Walking around, it seems like every building and wall has been converted into a makeshift canvass. Apparently, street art is a relatively new phenomena, but as a form of expression it has swept through the city like wildfire. Today street artists from around the world come here to create works, and Serbian artists travel abroad to reciprocate.
One of Belgrade’s most famous murals is by Italian street artist, Blu. Taking up the whole side of a building, it’s a little faded but it’s definitely a city devouring a forest. Painted in 2009 as a critique of contemporary consumerist society destroying nature, it epitomises the political commentary of much of Belgrade’s street artists, who are often critical of the government, media and corruption.
That said, I arrived at Blu’s Cities vs. Nature mural via a stairway beneath an underpass that was home to far less political works: a naked woman with large exaggerated breasts is just one of several dozen paintings on an exit from a highway. I’m surprised more accidents don’t happen on this stretch of road.
Later that same day, as I wandered back to my hotel, I spotted an alleyway that had graffiti everywhere, including a Banksy-like rat with machine gun. I always loved the Banksy rats. There was one I passed most days on my way to work in London, just a single rat defiantly holding a placard which read, “Go back to bed”. There were mornings when I could have joined the protest.
A few years back, Belgrade’s street art made it into the pages of that flag bearer of neo-liberal economics, The Economist. One of the interesting points of the article is that graffiti was once the preserve of ultra nationalists and right wing football hooligans (in which Serbia specialises ); but the modern street art scene is far more cosmopolitan, international and tolerant.
This anguished artistic flourishing amongst a post-war generation seems like something worth celebrating.
7 thoughts on “Belgrade, a giant canvass for street art”
I was just telling a friend about Bg street art, and she told me about your blog. I have lots of these in my private archive, some of the best ones representing Serbian well-known journalists, painters, singers, actors and and and…. (A Serb living in Munich).
I really enjoyed Belgrade, it came as a complete surprise just how lovely the city is, but it was summer and incredibly hot so walking around was hard work. I went to so many interesting neighbourhoods, but definitely need to go back and explore more.
The one thing I recommend my friends is to avoid summer in Bg because it can be very hot and humid. You’re completely right, though. I often say it myself. It’s not a beautiful city (the socialist architecture did lots of damage to it, and now this mob in power), but it undeniably has its charm, regardless. Besides, it’s the people who make a city, and down there people are very friend and welcoming.
Note the word “harmony” above the trumpet.
Great selection Paul. Actually I think it is one of your posts that got me “into” Street Art.
To start looking for it in my travels and post selections.
(And in that respect i am like Lewis Carroll’s rabbit. Always late, always late)
Dankje wel mijnheer.
…but better late than never? There is something very appealing about ‘good’ street art. Subjective, I know. I think living in the Hoxton area of London set me down that path, a fertile area for street art! Take care Brian.
You too. (Now ‘m going to have to look where Hoxton is) 🙂