NO MORE GREY WALLS

Urban art is here to stay. Society is increasingly inclined to admit this form of artistic expression, albeit within guidelines. Differentiating street art from vandalism is still a tricky subject that generates discrepancies. However, there are more and more urban spaces set up to receive the proposals of these spray masters and clean walls left at their disposal, ready to receive a layer of creative paint. This trend contributes to give identity to the neighbourhoods, to generate movement around art and to revitalise more quiet areas that in this way, charge energy.

Walls of Tabacalera en 2016 (©Daniel Mesa, via madriddiferente.com)

The Muros-Tabacalera initiative responds to these ideas, a project that is now in its third edition and that Promoción del Arte launched in 2014 to recover the walls of the perimeter of Tabacalera, in Lavapiés. In May of that year, a contest was opened to receive proposals from the artists and to paint the walls of the old tobacco factory. 2014 was an open proposal, without a defined theme, in which 32 artists linked in some way with the Madrid urban scene and with the neighbourhood participated.

Mural 2019, by Kenor (via madridstreetartproject)

In 2016, 25 new artists gave new life to the walls of the Glorieta de Embajadores and the streets Miguel Servet and Mesón de Paredes, with works inspired by the title Urban Natures. Under this topic, the idea was to create pieces that explore the distance of the natural environment that comes across the big cities and invite to reflect on this disconnection of contemporary society, covering the grey walls with colourful and dynamic works.

Mural 2019, by Srger (via madridstreetartproject)

For this new edition of 2019, the topic is Azar (chance). 25 artists will put their imagination and sprays at the service of this evocative title. The participating artists in this third edition are 108, Amaia Arrazola, Ampparito, Anna Taratiel, An Wei, BYG, Boa Mistura, Liquefied Collective, Dafne Tree, Eltono, Gviiie, Iñigo Sesma, Kenor, Manolo Mesa, Mario Mankey, Maz, Nemo's , NSN997, Null, Wigs, Sara Fratini, Son3k, Spogo, Srger and Yksuhc Juan.

Mural 2019, by NSN997 (via madridstreetartproject)

With initiatives like this, urban art gradually gains a niche in the cities and conquers the hearts of the neighbours. In fact, the murals have become an important attraction for tourism, and this has also had its consequences for the day to day of the neighbourhoods, which see how the cost of living raises by the power of attraction of this type of interventions. What is clear is that the graffiti has come to stay and has gradually made its way into the walls of the city.

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.