Photo by Meritxell Díaz
Graffiti shop shutters home
Graffiti artist Toistudio works on a Desigual shopfront
Street art follows certain rules of which respect is the most important. If an artist paints a piece, a ‘tag’, a ‘throw-up’ or a ‘bomb’ on a wall, no one else can paint on it. This means that if a shop owner pays for graffiti on his blind, he will not have to worry again about ‘spray-can vandalism’.
At first glance, it might seem strange that shopkeepers would pay hard-earned money to graffiti their businesses, but it is actually not such a surprising thing to do. After all, there is nothing all that inherently attractive about persianas. Business owners are opting to join their enemy, and in doing so have created an urban fashion. A walk through night-time Barcelona reveals a variety of graffiti art. Clothing stores, hairdressers, pubs and restaurants are the driving forces behind this alternative decoration, which they say also helps to attract customers.
Pilar Palou can be considered a pioneer. Before retiring, Palou was the owner of Marcs Palou. They sell not only frames, but paintings as well. In 1986, she employed Martín Carral to paint her store blind, and the resulting work is still there. When the shop is closed, the graffiti shows a man pushing up the blind, and some people going into the store. “I knew the artist, I used to sell his paintings,” explained Palou. “I was very fond of art, so I thought about doing something innovative for the shop. I asked Martín Carral whether he could paint on the blind. I knew what I wanted—the graffiti had to show Marcs Palou open when it was closed. As it was a challenge, he accepted.”
Jordi Sales, who runs the business today, sells postcards with a photograph of the graffiti. He revealed a secret: on the postcards there is something that is not original, a tag on the blind. Apart from that small detail, 22 years later the graffiti has stayed exactly the same. Jordi Sales explained that now they are thinking about new graffiti, this time on the ceiling. “We have had dampness stains coming from the neighbour above, so it would be great to cover them with a graffiti.”
Some graffiti artists travel long distances to take advantage of this attitude and leave their marks. Pablo López, for instance. The 22-year-old’s most recent graffiti is on the blind of Inopia, the tapas bar run by Albert Adrià—Ferran Adrià’s brother—and the team of Taller del Bulli. Although López lives in Girona, he mainly works in Barcelona. “Girona is not as modern and creative as Barcelona,” he said.
He first started painting tags on trains and walls eight years ago, an illegal enthusiasm he decided to give up after paying many fines and being taken to court on several occasions. His view of graffiti changed: he started conceiving of it as an art, so it needed to be legal, he said, and it now makes him his living. These days, the price of one of his works ranges from €300 to €1,000. A few months ago he received a call from Inopia, enquiring after a design for the business. “As there are two blinds, they wanted the name of the restaurant on one and, on the other, whatever related to the world of cuisine.”
As ‘Drex’, López’s former graffiti-painting alter ego, the artist drafted a piece that was immediately accepted. Now Inopia’s blinds are attractively colourful; a smiling octopus dressed as a cook prepares and serves dishes, a concept that perfectly expresses Inopia’s philosophy. It took López several days to finish his piece. While working on it, many people would stop to observe him. “Especially elderly people, some of whom were really enthusiastic. Others commented: ‘This is art, not what teenagers do on walls, that cannot be defined as anything else but vandalism.’”
Inopia’s owner pronounced himself satisfied, both because it kept his persiana free of other graffiti and because it draws attention to the restaurant even when it is closed. “Graffiti is a touch of modernity; if you do not accept it, you are out of fashion,” said López, who added that he was working on a new project close to Plaça Molina.
Tois Estudio Creativo offers graphic designs based on graffiti. The owners of Tois, Nados and Seyd, used to paint on walls, but after years of experience they decided to become professionals and began designing websites, logos, video and media planning. When they opened their studio, they painted a graffiti on their blind, not just because this is part of what they offer and they wanted to promote it, but also because “graffiti is a corporate identity and defines exactly what we are,” according to Nados. Their graffiti shows the skyline of the city. Unintentionally, Tois Studio encouraged other nearby shop owners to acquire professionally completed spray piece blinds.
In November 2007, the clothing shop Desigual commissioned Tois Studio to paint temporary graffiti on a store they were going to open in Carrer dels Arcs, as a way of letting people know that a Desigual was launching there. The piece lasted only until Desigual was opened. “The interest in graffiti started thanks to advertisements and videoclips, then big companies introduced it in their campaigns. When a brand of reputate goes for something, every other brand copies the idea. We have been working for Nokia, Nissan and Audi, and these are firms that set the trend. The craze for graffiti began two years ago, and luckily it has continued and we hope that it will do so for a long time,” Nados said.
In Comtessa de Sobradiel (Barri Gòtic), there is a hairdresser’s and a soap shop, both with graffiti by the same artist, Guillermo Soria. The former shows two women waiting for their hair to be washed, and the latter is covered in bubbles of different colours. Guillermo Soria agrees with Nados that at the beginning, graffiti was more for “surfer shops that were into that culture, close to hip hop.” Later, he received calls from other kinds of stores; in May, he did a design for the restaurant El Asador de Burgos on Carrer Bruc. But, in his opinion, there are still many businesspeople reluctant to incorporate this new fashion.
The Raval has been the trend-setter, but graffiti is popping up on persianas throughout the city. There are some amazing examples in many neighbourhoods where graffiti puts an end to the sad, grey blinds around the city and makes them, somehow, look alive.
Night-time graffiti viewing:
Poble Sec—Barramon (Blai 28); Gràcia— Freaklub (Torrent de l’Olla 156) and Bulbo (Montseny 5); Barri Gòtic,—Taller de Bicicletes La Gallina (d’Ataülf 8) and Fuji Sports (Ferran 44). Marcs Palou is at Gran de Gràcia 79, and Inopia at Tamarit 104.
For further info:
Pablo López, Tel. 697 67 15 80
Guillermo Soria, Tel. 691 06 30 90
Tois Estudio, Pom d’Or, 2,