Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant strand[s] of a global urban art movement, and its diversity defies the increasing homogeneity of world graffiti.” – Design Week
In March 2009, the Brazilian government passed law 706/07 making street art and graffiti legal if done with the consent of building owners. As progressive of a policy as this may sound, the legislation is actually a reflection of the evolving landscape in Brazilian street art, an emerging and divergent movement in the global street art landscape.
Rio de Janeiro has been particularly progressive in its policy towards street art, with its 1999 “Não pixe, grafite” (Don’t Tag, Graffiti) project that brought together 35 graffiti artists to showcase diversity in local styles. But more unique is the evolution of a permission hierarchy, blurring the line between formal and informal. The new street art law merely reinforced these unique patterns of street art and legitimized an already flourishing form of artistic expression.
In Rio de Janeiro, street art is ubiquitous. It exists in all corners of the city, from the favelasto upper class neighborhoods, from residential to institutional. It is bold in scale and aesthetics and is anything but graffiti. The urban fabric of Rio de Janeiro also figures prominently in the evolving street art scene. The high walls, whether for security or to contain the topography, provide ample surfaces for painting. But rather than location dictating art, the relationship between owner and artist has a direct impact on where street art occurs.
Owners of buildings, both residential and commercial, sometimes invite artists for commissions, which is done to protect from tagging, as an aesthetic choice or as an economic choice — painting a façade with art may be cheaper than another mode of beautification. In another case, street artists ask permission from the owner.
Thanks to the city’s openness to various forms of artwork, and specifically “street” art, Rio de Janeiro is now known for its colorfulness and art. In informal studies the art has also been found to make citizens more invested in their communities and overall happier.
Hooray for public art.