Ah, Rio! It’s an amazing city for many reasons, although one of them might not come to mind as easily as, say for example, the beaches. I’m talking about Rio’s street art, which, once you’re there, you’ll find pretty much everywhere – yes, on the aforementioned beaches, too!
I dearly love street art, because I appreciate how people make an effort to create something just for the sake of it. After all, they usually are not going to get paid for it; they are not going to get recognition for it (apart from within the community, maybe), and their piece of work only lasts as long as nobody else sprays or paints over it. On top of that, it’s a risky profession, if the space chosen for the artwork is officially meant to be kept plain – which is probably true in most cases.
In Rio de Janeiro though, it’s pretty much possible to do your thing and keep it all legal: in 2009 the Brazilian government passed a law that decriminalises street art if it is executed in consent with the building’s owner. This year another law was passed, taking the legalisation from the private to the public spaces. There are now designated public areas that street artists can legally beautify, such as columns, certain walls and construction sites.
This still does not necessarily mean that most of what you get to see is actually legal, but it certainly means that you get a much bigger variety of creations. It’s a diversity that explodes with colours, ideas, emotions, statements, questions, humour and talent.
It’s about identity, communication and experimenting. Of course, to some it’s still just vandalism, but times are a-changing. For example, see this massive project in the photo below? It’s the largest work of graffiti in Rio and even features in the free official guide to the city! You’ll find it on Rua Coelho e Castro (in Saudé), not far from the art museum. The artist is Tomáz Viana aka “Toz”.
Since the side of the building it was painted on oversees a private parking lot, you can’t really get close and personal. We asked the security guard if we could come in and take a picture, to which he agreed, but I don’t think he would have had us frolicking through the rows of parked cars, trying to find other angles.
The picture below on the other hand was taken just across the street from the parking lot, and shows one of Toz’s works with the title “Insônia”.
We stumbled over another legal art exhibition just next to the Carioca Aqueduct (Lapa Arches). This work was called “Status quo Revolucao”, created by Raoni Moreno. I know this because the exhibits had little white stickers with the information at the sides (down on the right), just like in the ‘real’ galleries.
Speaking of Lapa, one of Rio’s neighbourhoods: they have some amazing stuff there! I left Loz at the aqueduct to take pictures, because I had seen a wall that had sparked my interest, but then I saw another painted wall, shutters, poles… So I wandered right into the the core of the district, briefly chatted to some people, before I headed back, only to find that Loz had almost gotten robbed. It’s another story, but always be safe, people!
A lot of the art will reflect Rio; its culture, its people.
Other creations – well, maybe not so much….
Then there’s politics…
There are dancing tigers, eagle twins and deadly collages…
There’s even the odd take on the good old classics:
I thought it was quite amazing to find interpretations of classical art works, although I am only able to clearly identify Gustav Klimt’s “Judith I” here. I’m sure the other one is equally famous, but after bestirring Google for like 25 minutes without any success, I thought I’d pass it on to the comment section – you may shine with your knowledge!
This was by the way right next to the favela “Rocinha”. There’s definitely a lot of great street art in the favelas, but even though we were taken on a little tour through Rocinha by our travelblogger friend Kay, who had been volunteering there and knew her ways, I still was aware of the controversy that surrounds visiting a favela. So for once I experienced something without documenting it very much along the way.
And since street art is everywhere, I coped quite well!
Heck, even if all that you do in Rio is enjoy some beach time – you’re still going to see amazing street art!
I mean, there’s no end to this, really, but I know about your short attention spans, folks, so I’m gonna let you go… Jokes aside, this post is nothing but a VERY humble collection of street art pictures in Rio. There’s so much more!
If you like to know more about the street art of Rio, there’s a nice article for you here.
If you are interested in the different artists, their works, and maybe where to find them, then this website is quite helpful.
If you want to volunteer in a Graffiti Project in Rio de Janeiro, then don’t let anyone tell you there’s no such thing, because there is!
And that’s it now, for real. Thank you for reading, and have a great time, wherever you may roam! Tchau!
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Those photos are amazing, thank you so much for sharing! Quick question: Would you remember where you took the photo of the flying character with a helmet (mosaic piece)? Thanks
Laurence Norah says
Thanks very much! So these were taken way back in 2013 if I recall correctly. Other than it being in the Lapa area, that’s all I know I’m afraid.
Sorry not to be of more help, and best of luck searching out the street art in Rio!
Thank you so much for your reply, Laurence!
I have finally found that mosaic using StreetView: it was located Rua Joaquim Silva 137, in Lapa. That piece is part of a serie called “Mettaur”, and the artist is Megamatt. He installed 14 Mettaur in Rio, approx. 10 years ago. If you have seen some others, I’d be super interested to get additional photos!
Have a nice day 🙂
Laurence Norah says
My pleasure! Wow, well done on tracking that down. I don’t know if we got photos of the other art. I don’t think so to be honest. Rio had so many different bits of street art!