Step into La Candelaria of Bogota & your visual senses are immediately oversaturated.
Bold colors dart across the streets. Street sculptures, stamps & more each mark an individual artist’s style & message. Masterful murals commissioned by the people, for the people, fill entire walls.
You could wander around the city & easily feast your eyes on the many street art pieces (graffiti is legal here), but sign up for the Bogota Graffiti tour for an amazing, super informative tour. Tours are in English & the guides are fantastic – they are all street artists themselves & know many of the other grafeteros personally, so they can speak to each artist’s style, technique, message & more. The tour is free (donation based) and happens every morning; more info here.
This mural was by far my favorite – it was done by Guache, the only freestyle spray painter in Bogota. He’s from the rural parts of Colombia & this fantastic piece capture the patterns, the maize – elements of his indigenous home.
We started our tour at this wall – where he pointed out tons of graffiti details. Rodez did the piece on the right side – he’s the father in a family of graffiti artists, and didn’t actually get involved until both of his sons began doing it. His signature tag is the eggshell shape with his name in the middle.
Apparently he’s a pretty social guy & would stop and chat with strangers while he worked. The eggshell tag is filled with names of the people who he’d talk to during each piece. On the top left there is a silver 3D plaster mask; these are done by a guy named Crisp. The Kilo tag on the bottom right can be spotted all over Bogota.
A stencil piece by Praxis, a Bushwick NYC artist, on the plight of the many homeless people in Bogota. Historically through the civil war, Colombians in more rural areas get forced out of them homes & a lot of them end up homeless in big cities like Bogota.
Some more social work. The stamps dotted these checkers are done by a guy named DJ Lou. His work is very left wing political – stuff like men being hung from construction beams, walking beneath umbrellas to shield from falling rifles. In fact for awhile the Farcs were using his artwork to support their cause.
Since graffiti is legal in Bogota (not 100% legal but most cops will turn a blind eye… they do have bigger issues to deal with after all), the result are these amazingly intricate & well thought out pieces – artists don’t need to hurry & worry about being caught while they work! This area is nestle amongst a handful of universities too so there are plenty of art students studying nearby & practicing on these walls.
The city regularly white washes walls, but they end up tagged again so quickly that a lot of owners will actually commission works to be done on their building – a finished mural is much less likely to be tagged. This way the building have a beautiful piece of work that will last, and street artists get some commission, or at least help in paying for the art supplies.
This was the outside of Casa Bellavista – the hostel I stayed at for 3 nights in La Candelaria. (Highly highly recommend by the way. This is the only truly family run hostel I’ve ever stayed at – the mother cooked breakfast for us every morning, her teenage children ran the reception desk, and the father actually even reimbursed me once when we realized I had been scammed with a counterfeit bill…. the sweetest people ever!)
One of my favorite things to do in any city is to walk around and look for street art pieces. Bogota is seriously a visual feast — and participating in this tour was one of the best things I did in the city. You learn so much about the street art world – how South American artists are sort of silo’d in their continent – up until recently it was quite expensive to fly in & out of the country. How in other big cities where street art is illegal most artists tag their work using stickers that they can work on at home, and put up on walls in a matter of seconds.
I was furiously taking notes & snapping photos but I already know there is a ton I’ve unfortunately forgotten… 😦
Definitely definitely set aside one morning & sign up for this tour if you ever find yourself in Bogota!