© REUTERS / CHIARA NEGRELLO
From detailed murals to intriguing stencils, street art has long been a way for artists to express their thoughts, ideas, and creative spirit. Street art can be found in cities across the globe, with just as many admirers as it has critics.
Aside from being a means of colorful self-expression, street art also promotes diversity, representing the different groups that come together to form a community. All over the world, artists use their talents to bring joy and creativity to their communities, whether by inspiring viewers to consider their history, or to look toward a brighter future.
Graffiti artist captures the lightness of clouds to lift spirits
In France, a graffiti artist’s monumental mountaintop project aims to encourage a more contemplative approach to life by inspiring childlike wonder at clouds drifting by.
The 1,500 square meter painting ‘Un Nouveau Souffle’ (A New Lease on Life) by French artist Saype graces the summit of the Moleson peak in the western Swiss Alps.
Using biodegradable paints made from natural pigments such as coal and chalk, it depicts a little boy blowing bubbles in an area known for its clouds, seeking to reflect the link with children’s skygazing.
“I think we are in a world that is super heavy and we need a little lightness and I believe that the clouds are also a bit of a dream, the imagination,” said the 32-year-old artist.
“When we were kids we were always imagining shapes in the clouds. And I believe that now is also a moment we must breathe and—also with lightness—relearn to create by reverie the world of tomorrow.”
Known for massive works of graffiti on grass best seen from the air, Saype has also adorned sites ranging from an impoverished shantytown in South Africa to the lawn in front of the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva.
Italian street artist battles racism by turning swastikas into cupcakes
An Italian artist is transforming hateful graffiti into food. Swastikas on the wall become giant cupcakes with purple icing, and nasty words become cheesy pizzas. All in a day’s work for the street artist who uses his talent to turn hate into love.
“I take care of my city by replacing symbols of hate with delicious things to eat,” says the 39-year-old artist, whose real name is Pier Paolo Spinazze and whose professional name, Cibo, is the Italian word for food.
On a recent sunny morning, he was alerted by one of his 363,000 Instagram followers that there were swastikas and racial slurs in a small tunnel on the outskirts of Verona.
Wearing his signature straw hat and necklace of stuffed sausages, he set off. He took out his bag of spray paints and got to work while cars drove by.
He covered up the slurs with a bright slice of Margherita pizza and a Caprese salad—mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. A swastika was transformed into a huge red tomato. As he created the murals in the tunnel, which each took around 15 minutes, people drove by, peering out of their windows to stare and wave. One art teacher wound down her window to compliment his work.
In recent years human rights groups have warned of growing racism in Italy following mass immigration from Africa. While Spinazze has become a local celebrity in Verona, he has also made enemies.
When someone spray-painted “Cibo sleep with the lights on!” in big letters on a wall, the artist turned the threat into the ingredients of a gnocchi recipe.
“Dealing with extremists is never good, because they are violent people. They are used to violence, but they are also cowards and very stupid,” Spinazze said. “The important thing is to rediscover values that we may have forgotten, especially anti-fascism and the fight against totalitarian regimes that stem from the Second World War. We must remind ourselves of these values.”
Across the globe, artists use basketball courts as their canvas
All over the world, street artists and local communities are transforming basketball courts and creating an eye-catching legacy that brings vibrant color to neighborhoods.
The likes of renowned Italian artist PISKV and talented Nigerian graffiti artist Osa ‘Seven’ Okunpolor have helped transform 3×3 half courts globally, exploring the intersection between basketball and art.
In Nigeria, Osa ‘Seven’ Okunpolor, one of Africa’s most talented and sought-after graffiti artists, helped renovate Ndubisi Kanu Park Court in Ikeja, Lagos State. He believes basketball is art—the art of bouncing, shooting, dribbling—and the courts should reflect that.
The project, which ran in partnership with the Lagos parks authority, invited contributions from the local community, who were able to make their own additions to the artwork, promoting unity and creating a lasting legacy in the park.
Francesco Persichella, also known as PISKV, designed a new artwork that has given new life to Rome’s Scalo San Lorenzo neighborhood for the 2021 edition of Red Bull Half Court in Italy’s capital city. The artist worked with volunteers from the local community to create his masterpiece, which shows a player dunking within the grounds of the famous Colosseum.
“A player stands out in the Colosseum in the act of a dunk, the most famous act of Street Basketball,” the artist explained. “Dynamic lines and vividness of colors give strength to the design, really crushing the grey reality that previously distinguished this field.”
“This playground has always been a landmark of the city,” said Matteo Baruzzo, a member of the San Lorenzo Family basketball community.
“They also come here to play from all the other neighborhoods and the community has always been very active. Some of the young people, who come from disadvantaged situations, found new energy, and contributed together with PISKV to make it a reality that this slightly disfigured facility that had been abandoned over the years could be restyled.”
Swiss artist Serge Lowrider took on a similar challenge, colorfully transforming a court at Lausanne’s sporting heart, the Vidy Bowl. Lowrider has a long artistic connection to basketball, having worked with Nike and produced commissions for Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday and the March Madness tournament, so the project aligned heavily with his previous work.
In Turkey, Red Bull Half Court, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament challenging the world’s top ballers, partnered with the Mural Istanbul festival to transform three of the country’s courts. Designer and muralist Max On Duty took inspiration from local legend Sinan Güler for his revamping of the court in Istanbul’s Abbas Ağa Park. In Ankara, graffiti artist Esk Reyn created a masterpiece of colors and angles on a court in the city’s Anıttepe Park. Over in Bursa, street artist Mr. Hure was responsible for the abstract creation at Hüdavendigar Kent Park.
Red Bull Half Court reaches its conclusion at the World Final this month on the same iconic court where PISKV painted his mural in Rome.