Seeking Out Bogota’s Best Street Art
All photos by Janeen Christoff
Colombia is in the midst of an art boom, and the city's streets are vibrant with striking works by talented locals.
Similar to the art renaissance that encompassed southern neighbor Brazil 10 years ago — which was bolstered by a blossoming economy and growing middle class, Colombia’s artistically fertile environment has art dealers, curators, academics and the artists themselves fostering a creative conscience.
Within Colombia's boom, street art has emerged as a popular medium. Its recognition as a legitimate means of artistic expression within Bogota is encouraged by support from the city’s mayor, and city officials provide space for massive murals done by collaborative crews.
Bogota hosted the prominent graffiti art collaboration, known as Meeting of Styles, in November 2014. This event began in Wiesbaden, Germany in 2002 and is an international network of graffiti artists who work together to inspire their passion for street art. During the event, artists from Germany, Spain, Argentina, as well as local artists from Bogota came together to create several murals around the city.
Visitors can check out these murals as well as some other significant pieces on a tour of Bogota’s street art curated by art dealer and hotel owner Federico Ruiz and his guide, Juan Garcia, who has been a graffiti artist since 1997 and is a member of a street crew known as MDC.
The journey begins in an area of Bogota known as La Candelaria in Parque Concordia, which is where the graffiti art scene in Bogota was born, according to Ruiz.
The first major piece is on 26th and 14th Avenue. It is a 10-story high mural of a couple in love amidst the city's chaos. The mural was done in 2013 by five artists — four men and one woman. One was our guide, Garcia. The piece is known as “The Kiss” and uses both latex and spray paint. It took just six days to complete, with the artists working 11 hours each day.
The mural features two different styles of graffiti, combining lettering and graphics. Each artist was able to showcase his or her different styles within the clothing of the couple. It is currently the tallest graffiti mural in Bogota.
It’s rare to see graffiti artists in action as they are often working under the cover of darkness, but in Bogota, where street art is legal, your chances are certainly greater. During our visit, we saw commissioned artists from the Animal Poder Collective (APC) in the process of creating a cheetah and bee mural just down the road from “The Kiss.”
The tour also stops to check out some of the works done during Meeting of Styles. We saw murals from famed graffiti artist El Pez of Barcelona as well as work from Ink, DJLu, MDC and others.
DJLu stood out for his provocative stencils. He has been referred to as the “Banksy of Bogota” and is a visual artist who studied at the National University of Colombia. DJLu uses stencil to express social messages that reflect political woes on a local and global scale. His images often reflect the violence experienced in his youth from a turbulent government, a country overrun by guerillas, street violence and family issues. He said in an interview, “I’m interested in highlighting the relationship between fighting wars and playing games, the manner in which a conflict is absurdly driven by hidden interests –– a game in which we all lose.”
Bogota’s art scene is not limited to graffiti. Art dealers and galleries have proliferated throughout the city over the last few years. In addition to the half-day graffiti tours, Federico Ruiz offers a variety of art tours, workshops, shopping tours and gallery visits. Visitors can contact him through his boutique property, La Colina Hotel Cottage, which showcases tours and activities around Bogota.
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