Sometimes the best art is free – Spain and Portugal’s street art

Lisbon, Portugal
Street art in Lisbon, Portugal | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Spray paint sales are doing well on the Iberian peninsula. At night, artists and hooligans make their marks all over the walls of Spain and Portugal. Our guidebooks told us to enjoy old neighborhoods for their history and quaint charm. The cobblestone streets are steep and narrow. Grape vines hang over whitewashed walls. It’s been this way for centuries.

But these places are not dead. The streets are alive with colorful graffiti and we’ve got the photos to prove it.

A lot of the graffiti is just sloppy, lazy tagging, but plenty of it is thoughtful, fantastic, fun art. The masterpieces in museums are exquisite and timeless, but the works on the streets have an ephemeral and erratic energy Lauren and I deeply appreciate. It can make you smile, laugh, or just scratch your head.

Inspired by my friend Russell Howze, author of the book Stencil Nation: Graffiti, Community, and Art, Lauren and I paid extra attention to graffiti made using stencils. Russell’s documented stencil art for more than 10 years, amassing the definitive photo collection of all things spray painted. In June, Russell compiled the best into Stencil Nation, which you should buy right now.

Russell – maybe you can use some of our street art finds in your second edition! Have your people call our people.