I enjoy street art, or graffiti if you prefer, but beyond a casual appreciation of what I see on walls as I wander around, I’m not very knowledgeable about it. Like most people, I’m more street art voyeur than active participant. That hasn’t changed, but a recent afternoon in Rotterdam has given me a new perspective on spray can art, and the artistry and skill required to make it.
The abandoned factory which formed the crumbling canvas for a street art event, held near Rotterdam’s Marconiplein, was as obscure a location as the average person could hope to find … or not. We knew about it through friends (thanks Heather and Martijn) who are in the know, and even then it took some finding.
Created over hot a day in July, the event and the pieces of art were ‘commissioned’ to celebrate the opening of a new branch of Walls and Skin, a tattoo shop and street art supporter, in Rotterdam. Tattoos and spray cans seem to go hand-in-hand, and it brought some of the Netherlands’ best known graffiti artists out to perform.
Walls and Skin sell spray paint cans in their tattoo shop, and as part of the launch, all the paint was free. It was street art as spectacle, and the spectacle was not a little mesmerising to watch. The delicacy and intricacy with which the artworks are created was eye-opening. Plus there was a live DJ pumping out suitably loud and pounding music, a barbecue and a free cocktail bar.
Here, in the midst of an abandoned industrial relic, was a professional mixologist turning out very respectable bourbon-based cocktails, while the smell of barbecue wafted across the empty space in front of an abandoned factory. What’s not to love? If you want to get a sense of the event there are some videos on Facebook. The event even made the news.
It underscores, if that is needed, that the once subversive and socially unacceptable – tattoos and graffiti – are perfectly acceptable in the 21st century. That is something to celebrate, and people did … although it wasn’t exactly a surprise to discover some earlier, more traditional graffiti done by a less skilled hand. I believe it’s affectionately known as ‘cock and balls’.