Sometimes it happens that you discover a passion in an almost random and dazzling way. So it was for me with street art in Rome. A year and a half ago, my company decided to move their offices to Porta Maggiore, putting me in the crossroads of the pulsating and vibrant life amidst San Lorenzo, Pigneto, and the historical center, and making me once again explore the city on foot and through public transport. It took some time to discover the world of Street Art, of speaking walls, that which is not easily visible by car. If you really want to get to know and love this wonderful city, you can’t do without discovering what the walls have to tell, and I hope that this article can give you a first taste of what you can expect from this parallel Rome.
Unlike the rest of the world, the street art scene in Rome has struggled for years to assert itself, and it still can’t be said that it is a recognized and accepted form of art here, although much progress has been made. Opportunities to set up legal walls are increasing, to the delight of some artists and the opposition of others who believe the street art scene shouldn’t be reined in. Today, Rome has become an attractive destination for international arts and even formal institutions are beginning to recognize the presence of many talented artists in this genre of art.
Over the years, San Lorenzo, also thanks to its fun, informal environment filled with students, has been a fertile ground for the Roman artists that, often fresh out of the academies, have poured their art on the walls of the city. The neighbourhood has become a playground for artists, with earlier works along the underpass of via dello Scalo di San Lorenzo and in via dei Volsci. Then there’s the collective wall of via degli Ausoni, and the wonderful work done by Alice Pasquini in via dei Sabelli. There are also gems scattered here and there by C215 and Borondo, international artists that over the years have started to consider Rome a second home.
In recent years, the Pigneto neighbourhood has undergone a process of growth that led to it becoming a viable alternative and a direct competitor of San Lorenzo. This has meant that many artists such as Hogre, Alt97, Uno, Hopnn and #cancelletto# have chosen it as the ideal place for their works. Some of the walls, over the years, have become legendary, like the intimate work by Sten+Lex on via del Pigneto that portrays them embraced, the dozens of works of Hopnn scattered around the neighbourhood or the Totò realized by Žilda on the facade of the bar Rosi. Photography, thankfully, allows us to preserve almost all of these wonderful works that are sometimes otherwise lost.
Over the last few years, the Ostiense neighbourhood has become the preferred spot for Roman street art to show itself to the general public thanks to the work of the Outdoor Festival and 999 Contemporary, who invite well-known Italian and international street artists to create legal walls of great appeal. Here you can see the wonderful works of Sten+Lex, JB Rock, C215, Kid Acne, Borondo, Gaia, Ozmo, Lucamaleonte and Hitnes, to name a few. In this context of “newfound” legality, there are the walls of Blu, maybe the most famous Italian artist in the world and one of the most famous of all. Every time this artist passes by Rome, the city gets a new masterpiece – Alexis at the beginning of 2013, Porto Fluviale in June.
Centro storico / Trastevere
The areas of the centro storico and Trastevere, although much more risky for artists than other areas, have seen the appearance of some wonderful works, including the posters of Omino71 and Mr. Klevra for the Eikonproject in collaboration with Jessica Stewart, and the posters by Diamond recently exhibited at the Museum of Rome in Trastevere in the exhibition “A Ruina Resurrexit”.
In order to learn about Roman street art, one cannot fail to mention the social centers, from those long-standing such as Strike (Casalbertone), the veritable cradle of street art in Rome, Forte Prenestino (Centocelle), which each year is filled with new works and new walls created by the most important artists of Rome and beyond, and the Ex-Snia Viscosa (Pigneto), which has recently modernized its works with new masterpieces by Lucamaleonte, Uffa, Bol23, and many others, during the event Artindipendenti.
These centers are flanked by new structures like the Metropoliz (Tor Sapienza) and its MAAM (Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere), a space of multicultural coexistence which also displays a movie, curated by Giorgio De Finis. Fans of street art can also flock to the former cinemas Preneste (Pigneto) and Volturno (Termini), where a .DNA collective invites dozens of Italian artists to decorate the abandoned spaces of Rome with art, giving visibility not only to established artists but also to new talents such as Uffa, Tadh, Knt1r, Millo, 0707 and many others. Fans can’t forget to visit the Communia (San Lorenzo), baptized by a Hogre masterpiece and recently “blessed” by the “trinity of Roman Street Art”: Omino71, Mr. Klevra and Hogre in a triple tribute to Thomas Müntzer, German theologian and rebel leader of the 16th century.
In recent years, new spaces have taken part in contributing to the spread of Roman street art. Among these are the Wunderkammer, Laszlo Biro, Mondo Bizarro, 999 Contemporary, and the -1 Art Gallery of the Casa dell’Architettura, with exhibitions curated by Giorgio De Finis, co-author of the movie Space Metropoliz and curator of the MAAM. The newest among the galleries linked with Roman street art is Varsi, with exhibitions by Skeme, Diamond and now the joint exhibition of Trota and Poison.
Finally, it is imperative to point out that Rome is not the only place to enjoy street art: the recent years have seen a burst of color in several areas within easy reach of Rome, such as the Festival Memorie Urbane in Gaeta (this year also in Terracina), with walls by Sten+Lex, Agostine Iacurci, Alice Pasquini, Faith47, DAL east, Sbagliato, the Festival Alterazioni in Arcidosso (Grosseto, Tuscany) and the Festival Oltre Le Mura in Sapri (Salerno, Campania) to name only those with guests of greater international appeal.
For further reading I invite you to visit my Facebook Page (in collaboration with Ivana De Innocentis), Street Art Roma, the initial phase of a larger project, in collaboration with the Roman artists:
Photos by: Tomas Mancin and Ivana De Innocentis