Athens is Europe’s latest mecca for street art. Marissa Tejada, travel journalist and blogger, tells us just how far the Greek capital’s street art scene has come.
Street art in Athens is turning heads. It’s complicated, political, meaningful, humorous and edgy. That’s because urban artists have stories to tell and messages to send, and they are louder than ever in a place being touted lately as ‘the new Berlin’.
The New Berlin?
“Every day is different in Athens, you are always anticipating something new. There’s more to take in than ever before,” says Dimitris Naiplis or N_Grams, one of Athens’ top street artists.
You’ll find his impressive work – along with the creations of other talented artists – deep in the streets and out in the squares of historic districts like Monastiraki, Plaka, Thissio, Exarchia and Syntagma – the core of Athens.
“This city is unique because we are a Mediterranean country with a Greek mentality. The current crisis definitely kicked the artist in motion here,” says Naiplis.
Street Art Tourism
It’s an undeniable part of the city, so much so, that along with tours of the glorious ancient monuments, the best views of Athens and Greek gastronomy food walks, companies are taking visitors by hand to analyse, view and appreciate street art wherever it may be in town.
“To really look at great street art here, you need to go off the beaten track,” says Nikos Tongas, a former street artist and current graphic designer who leads street art tours for Alternative Athens.
“I take visitors through some dodgy places that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Athens’ street art offers a different perspective in many ways.”
The Street Art Conservators
Not everyone agrees with that perspective. Some of the most impressive murals have ended up destroyed with splash of paint or “pressed” with dizzying tags.
In this new era of street art rising, not all is lost.
A volunteer group called the Street Art Conservators (ST.A.CO) has been saving some of the best pieces. Formally trained in the conservation of antiquities and art, one dozen members lend their time and talent to bring the best of Athens’ murals back to form. Scrubbing away with toothbrushes and sponges, their purpose is clear.
“If a piece can live a few minutes or a few months more, that means the public can enjoy it more,” says Eleftheria Mavromati, an archaeologist and ST.A.CO volunteer.
That’s why Mavromati and her fellow volunteers continue to search the city’s central and historic districts for street art works that need their help.
“We consider every single piece we conserve, during its sort lifetime, as unique and spectacular, a piece of the city’s art puzzle.”
A piece of a puzzle which in her view is one of the liveliest galleries in the world. A gallery that is defining Athens in new ways.
“Athens is really special. Here, the ancient stands beside the modern and in between it all is this fascinating street art gallery. We want to keep it alive as long as possible.”
Follow Marissa Tejada’s travels around Greece and Europe on her blog, ‘Travel Greece, Travel Europe‘.
All photos taken by Marissa Tejada