It’s hard to get away from talks of the 2001 economic crash while traveling in Buenos Aires. It even reaches the world of street art as I learned on a walking tour of the city’s urban art highlights with Graffitimundo.

When the market crashed, the city’s graphic designers went to the streets, turning buildings into canvases. Their initial goal was simple: to create art for the community that would help brighten people’s spirits during tough times.

They had a unique approach that was partially influenced by economics. The artists used paints in their creations as opposed to the spray cans favored by taggers around the globe. Using paints was not only less expensive but it also meant room for a wider range of colors and style to come through.

Another key difference in the Buenos Aires street art scene is that it’s not about vandalism. It’s all about the art of permission. Artists will seek permission from building owners or ask around about abandoned buildings. Some owners will also commission art for their exteriors, which can be a good tactic in preventing random graffiti from showing up. A notable example of this is the Argentine restaurant Tegui. Its exterior wall is covered in the very detailed stencil art shown below.

Stencil Graffiti

There’s also a wide range of styles reflected across the city. Some of the most interesting works are where artists have collaborated on a wall, bringing together different styles. Others take advantage of existing pieces of buildings, such as the example below where a window was filled in but the bars left in place, something the painter worked with.

A Buenos Aires artist uses existing bars to create street art.

A Buenos Aires artist uses existing bars to create street art.

More photos from my Graffitimundo adventure are on Flickr.