In Granada, Graffiti Rules the Streets

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Here in Spain, we prefer a side of eye-popping street art with our historical landmarks.

Let’s face it: We’re totally hooked on street art right now. Whether rolling with Berlin’s most iconic tagging crew or watching a Brazilian graffiti legend make her mark on the Big Apple, we can’t get enough. So when we were offered a chance to venture off Granada’s beaten path for an after-hours tour of the “other side” of this city, where the eye-popping and playful street-art murals demand just as much attention as the Alhambra, we jumped at the offer.

Our guide for the occasion was a local graffiti artist who preferred to go by the name “Lost.” Hey, to each his own, we just hoped his ability to navigate didn’t match his nickname. As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about. Lost led us off the main drag of the Calle de la Calderería Nueva in record time, where we wandered through the maze of back alleys and disused stairwells that all double as canvases for some ridiculously awesome graffiti.

And really, “graffiti” doesn’t really do these murals justice – it’s more fitting to call these bad boys modern masterpieces. According to Lost, one guerrilla artist in particular is to credit for Granada’s Technicolor explosion: El Nino. Specializing in surreal forms, whacked-out portraits and multi-coloured spectacles, El Nino has left his curious – and permanent – mark on the city. And once we started noticing his unique style, we couldn’t stop seeing it everywhere, from the Arabic quarter of the Albaycin to El Nino’s own home turf of Realejo.

But here’s the thing: El Nino’s mark on Granada has transcended back alleys and sidewalks. As we strolled on up to the Santa María de la Encarnación cathedral, we noticed that El Nino’s work was being featured in an exhibit right next door at the Granada School of Architecture. It was the ultimate sign that that the underground graffiti scene is being taken seriously here.

Never ones to shy away from a little culture, we ducked in to the exhibit, entitled Cuatro Elementos, and checked out El Nino’s newest creations, a series of experimental 3D sculptures that were a far cry from the mashups of cityscapes and animal images that we saw earlier in our walkabout.

Don’t get us wrong, the gallery was cool, but nothing beat the feeling of stumbling upon one of El Nino’s bizarre murals in its natural habitat. And after refuelling our curiosity with a drink next door at Entresuelo, where we also caught some amazing local reggae via the bar’s weekly Satta Club showcase, we hit up the back alleys one last time to cop some more authentic and amazing slivers of Granada graffiti. Forget the official tour guides and itineraries, the next time you’re fixing for a stroll, just follow the trail of El Nino.  

Photos courtesy of Flavia Giudice.