Whether they're inky black fingers scribbling on paper or calloused and sinewy fingers jabbing the keyboard... you'd think that's the writer's life, wouldn't you? Well, how about a bagful of 20 spray cans, a football field hemmed in by white walls and 20 minutes to 'write' anything you please in the dark of the night? Call it Aerosol Art if you like, but the story of graffiti is a complex and colourful one. It has drama, rivalry, funky music, political thought, gangs and speed, and the one you are about to read is set in Dali's Spain.


Art has always been a favourite when it comes to the Spaniards. It is rare to walk into a Spanish house and not find some form of painting on the wall. La Movida Madrilena (the Madrilenian groove, a sociocultural movement), which took place in the late 1970s after Franco's dictatorship ended and Spain was restored as a democracy, is a period much remembered. The capital city experienced radical cultural changes. Around the same time, Juan Carlos Arguello pioneered Spanish graffiti and left his signature, 'Muelle', in his native area, Barrio de Campamento, and later around the streets of Madrid. His style evolved, moving from simple usage of an ink marker for a logo to impressively designed tags using spray paints.

The graffiti visible in Madrid today is a mix of Muelle's original style, a dash of New York modernity with a tinge of Spanish flair. Graffiti seems to have begun in 1943, when the famous sentence, 'Kilroy was here' first made its appearance in the USA. In the 1970s, young NYC writers took to the city's outdoors and soon entire masterpieces were running across the subway system. Most experts term it as the inception of 'modern graffiti'. The NYC artists made their way to the UK and Holland as well. But movies such as Wild Style and Style Wars, showcasing hip-hop culture in connection with graffiti were responsible for introducing Europe to the possibility of streets daubed with bright dashes of colour.
Hip-hop became a rage in Spain during the 1980s and Madrid watched the writer-audience dialogue unfold. Dressed in the usual hip-hop gear, hooded and armed with anonymity, with strong opinions on music and society, the Spanish "hip-hoppers" started colouring/ painting Madrid in a way that anguished authorities and gladdened bohemians. Political stencils, self-indulgent tags, '80s-style scrawling, sponsored commercial art—the streets of the capital today are abuzz with psychedelic art spawned by mixed inspirations.


Not every hip-hop artist writes on buildings nor does every graffiti artist break into a rap chorus. But it is a strong relationship that exists even today in Madrid. Either way, what began as a little message on the wall, today, involves more creativity, spontaneity, a younger feel and a lot more adventure. Aiming for highly visible places that are difficult to wipe clean, a writer strives to be original and appreciated by other writers for his work and the risk undertaken.
Originally, graffiti was, and still is, about written words; hence the term 'writer'. Modern graffiti usually consists of the writer's name created in style, but personal logos and characters are now common as well, forming a subculture of their own. They adorn even old, classical-style buildings in the city. However, there are certain norms that are followed amongst writers respecting graffiti traditions and each artist's skills. There are writers who can do wild style graffiti in 15 minutes, but usually a mural, depending upon the size of the wall and safety of the spot, takes several hours. An elaborate mural on a large wall can take up to a month also.


Gran Via, Calle de Fuencarral, Chueca and Malasana towards the centre of Madrid are good for stickers and commercial work, but you need to keep an eye out as most of it is found on shop shutters. Check out Plaza del Dos de Mayo. In the south of Madrid, visit Villaverde, Carabanchel and other places such as Leganęs, MOstoles, AlcorcOn and Fuenlabrada. In the northern area are Torrejon and Coslada. Some special spots with excellent pieces include La Paloma football field, the field near Metropolitano and Paseo de la Florida Park, Basilica de San Francisco el Grande.


Many cities in Spain have at least a sprinkling of graffiti; apart from Madrid Barcelona and Seville, which have the best artwork.


USA: New York and Philadelphia form the hub of modern graffiti. Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas and Seattle also have good graffiti.

SOUTH AMERICA: Sao Paulo in Brazil, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Bogota in Colombia, various cities of Peru, Puerto Rico. Mexico has excellent graffiti too.

EUROPE and UK: Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, Basel, Zurich, London and Bristol.ASIA: Bangkok, Uzbekistan, Taiwan, Iran and Tokyo.

AUSTRALIA: Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.

CANADA: Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

FACT FILE GETTING THERE By Air: The main airport in Madrid is Madrid-Barajas, around 15 km from the city. Jet Airways operates flights to Barcelona, 621 km away, in conjunction with our partner airline, Brussels Airlines By Rail: Atocha and Chamartin are the two railway stations serving the city. The high-speed trains called AVE leave from Atocha to other big cities in Spain, whereas the international trains are linked to Chamartin. By Road: Estaci6n Sur de Autobuses has connections to the neighbouring countries.


Madrid's extensive underground rail system, Metro, is the fastest and the cheapest way to get around. It is fairly easy to figure out and the ticket cost for a single trip is ……. Taxis are also a more-expensive option. EMT operates buses around the city.


Madrid has plenty of accommodation options catering to various budgets. However, for tasteful indulgence in the 7 heart of the city, Hotel de Las Letras is a good option. Located on Gran Via, it is close to some good graffiti as well.


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