Rome Street Art – 2010 in Review
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This is a few days behind when I wanted to write it, but trying to sum up Rome’s year in street art isn’t an easy thing to do, especially this year. It’s actually a good thing, because so much happened that it’s hard to know where to start without making this a ridiculously long post. In February it will be two years (time flies!) that I’ve been photographing street art in Rome and in many ways, this year was Rome’s “coming out” as a city that really has the potential to do some great things on an international level.
For me I really divide things into two categories, the illegal, unsanctioned work that is put out into the street and the pieces that were either commissioned or part of a larger, sanctioned event. I think the later category is really where Rome turned a corner this year, with not one, but several major events that gave both Roman and international street artists their opportunity to shine. The first big event of the season happened in April with the Collective wall on via degli Ausoni in San Lorenzo. While it might not have been as well publicized as some of the other events I’ll mention later, I have a great affection for what was achieved in a very short time, also because this wall is so representative of what is happening in Rome street art right now. If I had to tell someone coming into town where to go to get a quick and easy overview of who’s who on the scene, this wall has virtually everyone. It also gave me an incredible opportunity to wear out my camera (and the soles of my shoes) shooting everyone’s work in progress. I have a lot of favorite shots from the event, but my favorite by far is the shot of Hitnes working on his incredible freehand piece. It was so exciting to see how he works and how he created his beautiful painting in such a short time.
The next event was, of course, Outdoor, where I had the pleasure of being one of two official photographers to document Sten + Lex, JB Rock, C215, and L’Atlas as they installed their large scale posters. Anyone who is familiar with Rome must appreciate the work that coordinators NU Factory put into this, because this type of wall space is just not available in Rome. The inclusion of foreign artists, who already have a wide international reputation, helped cast a bigger spotlight on the event and prove that things of this nature were possible here. The fact that Sten + Lex’s incredible Totti mural is still standing (at the request of the residents in Garbatella) is a huge step in showing Rome that urban art can help beautify the landscape of our city.
One of the most enjoyable shoots I had was for the finissage of Outdoor, with the painting on via dei Magazzini Generali. I just have gone by six or seven times while JB Rock was completing his “Wall of Fame” mural and it was always great fun, not only to shoot him while working, but hang out with fellow photographers, the guys from NU Factory, and Alice from Drago. For a few weeks it was like our own little hang out. Now I wish there were more opportunities for them to do something like this!
The story of late summer was, of course, Invader. As I mentioned during my talk in late December at Altroquando, when someone like this chooses to come to Rome, it validates the whole city as a place of importance in the street art world. It was quite a magical time receiving emails and SMS’s from people telling me where to shoot the next Invader and having people ask “What are these little ‘aliens’ around town?” Wunderkammern did an incredible job including some of Rome’s art elite, by getting Achille Bonito Oliva to write the forward of the catalog. These sort of inclusions are necessary, in my opinion, in order to get the city to understand the value of this work and to hopefully allow and underwrite future projects.
After a short delay, the association Walls tackled the tough job of getting the city to create more legal walls for artists and the Urban Contest exhibition in the Circus Maximus thrust many former writers and street artists into the high profile arena to show the artistic value of their work. To my knowledge, the location of the legal walls are still yet to be announced, but they have started the difficult task of creating a dialogue with the city that will hopefully create a better understanding in the city toward street art and graffiti.
Lastly, this year continued to be a big one for Roman artist’s Sten + Lex. Aside from the Totti mural, they continued to be internationally recognized with work at Nuart in Norway and a show with Gaia at the Brooklynite Gallery this Fall. They began working with a new technique called the “stencil poster” and released a new book with Drago Libri as part of their 36 Chambers series.
As always, artists themselves have continued to curate their own urban art shows in Rome, with this year’s highlights being Sk8 Like Canvas (curated by Mr. Klevra), 20Keith (curated by Omino71), Nella Capitale delle Meraviglie (curated by Hogre and Psycholab), and the offerings at Strike (curated by Alt97, Murphy, and UNO). This was also a big year for the collective Artcock, who got commissions for pieces near the Trevi Fountain and on the facade of the new Officina Fotografica (so bummed I didn’t shoot that one). I’m looking for big things from them this coming year once they open a larger studio space.
While all these events are incredible and I love shooting the artists in action, my first love will always be shooting stuff out on the street. This, to me, is the essence of street art – just someone going out into the street, without permission, and putting their artistic statement up for everyone to see. This was an interesting year, as in some ways, I saw a drop off from certain artists but a higher number of work by others. This is the nature of the game, as real life, works, monetary troubles, all play a role in how much everyone can get their stuff up on the street. This is why I still feel it’s so important to develop a stronger market here in Rome, as if we don’t support the artists we have and give them opportunities, we risk them having to slow their production.
Luckily, a number of artists were still churning out pieces in high quantity and quality. JB Rock had a big year and I probably shot more of his stuff than anyone else this year (out of the Roman artists). Some of my favorite shots are of his work or him working and really varied this year between the wall on via dei Magazzini Generali, his posters out in the street, and painted commissions. 2011 looks to be a big year for him as well with a show in May at Mondo Bizzarro together with Mr. Wany and Eron. C215’s love affair with Rome kicked up a notch after Outdoor in May and I had the chance to shoot his stencils that dotted the city. As most Roman artists are putting their work on posters, it was an interesting change to shoot his stencils, which are sprayed directly on his surface of choice. I was also fortunate enough to be selected for inclusion in his new book, Community Service, and represent what he’d done here in Rome.
2010 presented an opportunity for me to shoot some artists who I hadn’t gotten to shoot the previous year, Diamond, Alice’ Pasquini, Greco, Sone, Hopnn, and # were all artists who I didn’t shoot too much in 2009, but who put up some great new pieces during the year, allowing me to continue to expand my library of work.
Overall this year was a big one, both for street art in Rome, and me personally. I continue to be thankful to the artists who have made me feel like a part of this community, who thank me for my photos (even though I should be thanking them), and give me tips on where to go. A big thanks to NU Factory for allowing me to shoot Outdoor and letting me part of a talk on street art at the French Cultural Center, a nerve-wracking, but fun experience. The guys from Elsewhere Factory and Wunderkammern deserve a mention for being so kind and supportive as well. Really, the list could go on and I’m excited to see what the new year brings. I already have a project in mind that is somewhat similar to my Street – Walls Experience exhibit from last year, but in a slightly different form, so stay tuned and enjoy the slideshow, which shows the images that I feel tell the story of Rome street art 2010.