A beginner’s guide to Madrid graffiti. The only 1 history.

Madrid graffiti

Whether you are visiting the city for the first time, or your interest for Madrid graffiti comes from an artistic interest, these are the aspects that you should take into account as to understand the local culture.

  • The beginnings
  • Madrid graffiti pioneers
  • Worth to visit locations

The origins of Madrid Graffiti

muelle graffiti on calle montera
This Muelle artwork was photographed by Marta Nimeva Nimeviene

Wall paintings have been present since the the beginnings of human existence. Cavemen decorated their homes with charcoal, plants’ pigments or the animals’ blood.

There are also records of wall writings in Roman Empire times. 

Nevertheless, it is in the contemporary era when we started to have the first and shy expressions that would lead to the golden coronation of graffiti as the young people’s art expression.

The context, Madrid during the 80’s

La movida countercultural movement
Representation of Madrid during the 80’s as in ‘La Movida’ film

Madrid had a golden age for art and creativity in the decade of the 80’s.

Few years ago, Spain had just come out of 40 years of dictatorship that had excluded the country from getting involved in the new trends appearing in different parts of the world.

Have you ever heard about Madrid Scene or La Movida Madrileña?

This was a countercultural movement which featured some of the best names in filmmaking, arts, music and Madrid graffiti.

It was the perfect scenario to start creating alternative ways of art.

The influence of NYC graffiti.

5 pointz graffiti NYC
Former 5 Pointz building, a mecca to all graffiti lovers. Picture by Adam Michaels/flickr

Even though it is commonly accepted that Madrid graffiti as we know it now was originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s, it is New York that comes across with the first powerful generations of graffiti writers.

The styles we are now used to, were created in the decade of the 80’s:

  • Bubble lettering
  • Throw- ups.
  • Wild styling.

A special mention has to be given to Taki183 who was Demetakrius, a Greek descendant that used to live in the 183rd Street, Washington Heights.

He’s one of the most remarkable names from the 60’s and 70’s, specially for his artworks on New York’s metro system.

Who is considered to be Madrid graffiti pioneer ?

Muelle's spring figure
This bouncy space became famous in town during the 80’s

Juan Carlos Argüello is the key name! An artist was born:

Muelle: a name / a style.

Mr. Argüello was born in 1966 in the madrilenian neighborhood of Campamento, Madrid’s south-east area.

He created a very recognizable signature which became very familiar not only for the freshly born graffiti community but also for locals.

At one point, Muelle became that famous that even police wanted to have a signature on their blackbooks.

Muelle’s tag became popular for an bouncy arrow which appeared below his name.

This created a trend in young following generations, inspired by his artworks.

It became such a trend to put arrows around their names. It is considered to be a very specific style of madrilenian writers from the 80’s, and still nowadays.

What were the styles that Muelle and his fellow Madrid graffiti artists used?

madrid graffiti style
  • Punk style: a very powerful movement of writers inspired by punk music bands and graffiti, specially in other European cities such as Amsterdam.
  • Break style: a trend inspired by the Break dance culture. It would also get a lot of inspiration from movies, English characters and comics figures.

Where are the Madrid graffiti current spots/locations?

There is a lot of Madrid graffiti in the city center, but something we have noticed in our rides around the suburbs is that the best modern graffiti can be found in the Cercanias train tracks and walls.

A ride on the RENFE trains

madrid trains
Intercity train at Chamartin railway station

If you want to photograph the real Madrid graffiti, you should get lost in the train line that will take you southbound from Atocha train station.

A little tip: our favorite spots are between Atocha and Villaverde Bajo:

  • RON’s crew
  • FARLOPA
  • VOLAR

Painting at La Tabacalera’s community center

graffiti art
La Tabacalera is a street art museum in Madrid’s city center

If you want to check Madrid Graffiti Mecca, you should head towards Tabacalera Centro Social. 

This self managed art space can be visited most evenings especially in the evenings, from 6.00PM on.

It is located in Calle Embajadores, offers FREE access and street art artists from Europe or any other country around the world may contact El Keller if interested in contributing with your artwork.

What’s the difference between Graffiti and post-graffiti?

We may be more familiar with terms such as Street Art or Urban art, but we often seem to forget that this amazing art we can see in our cities nowadays come directly from what we know as graffiti.

The main difference we can observe is actually the styles of each artistic expression:

The styles

techniques
Muelle tag and other stencils painted in the streets

When we talk about Graffiti we are referring mostly to letters/words or signatures (known as tags) since this was the seed that started an unstoppable movement.

These writings and signatures were linked to urban tribes and groups of friends.

On the other hand, Postgraffiti would be the evolution of writing and tags.

Contemporary artists developed a more visual imagery, and thus acceptance & even demand from the modern art industry.

Ever heard of Jean Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring? These two key important figures, opened the road to emergent artists.

The materials

spray paint by Molotow
Spray cans used to paint a graffiti wall in Madrid

Graffiti has always been associated with the most iconic mean we automatically think of: spray paint and markers.

Why?

  • It’s fairly cheap,
  • it dries fast,
  • you don’t need any brushes or tools besides the can itself. 

Spray paint is used for small/ middle size tags and “throwies” (bigger and more produced artworks), but we can also find that masterpieces on building facades also use home paint and rollers.

Postgraffiti or street art has experimented with many other different materials such as:

  • poster paste ups,
  • stickers,
  • stencils,
  • 3D sculptures,
  • tiles,
  • fabric

There is no limit for street art artists as they now enjoy the creative freedom that graffiti pioneers planted and harvested for future generations.

The legal aspects.

graffiti madrid
Metal shutters are commonly chosen by graffiti writers to create their artworks

It is known and accepted that graffiti and post-graffiti would be in a figurative speech way, “two kids from the same parents.”

Graffiti would be the oldest brother of the of them. Would you agree?

Part of the thrill that makes graffiti appealing to teenagers and young adults is the fact of painting in forbidden places, which makes them a part of a sort of secret and underground world.

Although it’s not 100% correct, we could affirm that post-graffiti writers mostly work in the studio or on commissioned street art festivals.

Our opinion about Madrid graffiti

Madrid graffiti artists have received awards all around the country, and the local writers are more active than ever!

There are several graffiti festivals in Madrid, which count with the presence of valued & professional artists.

You could check their artworks at:

  • Pinta Malasaña
  • Calle Lavapies
  • MOS Meeting of Styles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>