Graffiti is an often-overlooked marker of the social climate and public sentiment in urban areas; many prevalent styles of graffiti were developed in the United States, but European cities have concocted unique styles of their own that display the city’s culture and historical influences. Paris and Barcelona both showcase a variety of graffiti, but each city, rightfully, is unique. Graffiti really exploded in Paris from 1984-1990, when the counterculture movement was just beginning; nowadays, Paris is the home of many alternative lifestyles, which is represented in the variety of graffiti on the streets. We saw the work of Space Invader, a prominent European graffiti artist, as well as other tags and stickers that are found internationally. I tried to understand what French tag artists were trying to say with their brief statements of individuality, but couldn’t translate, let alone understand, the graffiti I saw.
In Barcelona, the graffiti movement didn’t take off until about 2002. You will see, however, when walking through the streets of the city, that the citizens wasted no time in covering their city with paint. The graffiti in Barcelona has a political theme that is expressed in a plethora of unique ways; artists do everything from scratching the walls to painting while wearing next to nothing. In Bomb It!, a movie about international graffiti that I am familiar with, a Barcelonan graffiti artist asks “Why do I need to go to a museum to see art?” The streets of Barcelona are full of controversial art. A lot of poor neighborhoods have been decorated with graffiti, to the admiration of some residents and the disdain of others; the opinions surrounding it may be mixed, but graffiti cannot be ignored in Barcelona. Overall, so far we have witnessed what one would expect in two large, European urban areas: a playground for the mixed cultures that make these cities so wonderful.