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Romantic Portugal - Chapter 1 - Street Art and Tourism

- “Have you ever been to Portugal? The street art scene there is crazy!” is a repetitive question we get from the visitors to Street Art Museum Amsterdam.

- “No”, was the honest answer. Until now.

Owing to breathtaking initiative organised by Portuguese Consulate of Tourism - Centro de Portugal - I had visited, on behalf of Street Art Museum Amsterdam, the center of this beautiful country - from Porto to Aveiro to Covilhã to Lisbon, where the most remarkable street artists have left their fantastic imprints on the steadily changing city streets. A wonderful combination of nature, food, heritage and …… street art.

And of course there is no road trip without “it all goes wrong” moments. The trip has started with me missing the flight, as the 4:30am wake up call without my dog Pinky Bandita proved to be way over-ambitious. I was gutted. I missed the adventure of my life.

Whilst burying myself in work to soften the pain, I got a phone-call from the embassy, explaining that they will do their best to get me back on the trip. Really???? By 2:30pm I was on my way to the airport and boarding the 5pm flight to Oporto. The change of flight was free of charge, so my luck has tripled by now and then it just went on - smooth and fast check-in, timely and healthy snack, delicious wine and friendly crew - Andrea Almeida (thank you!), in-flight magazine’s article on Basquiat’s “Restless Art” and VHILS’ Underdogs Gallery, where currently is a show by PichiAvo. TAP Air Portugal - you rule!

Magic lives in mysterious places, and street art can be found today in the most unexpected destinations - street art as a tool to attract and incite, street art as an element of a marketing mix in solution to economic growth of lesser known regions, street art as a tool to dialogue between people who otherwise would not meet.

So whilst I was flying adored, for the rest of the group, the first day was about Estarreja, where in 2016 the municipality has organised the 1st edition of the Urban Art Festival ESTAU, bringing community and art together. Estarreja is famous as a bird-watching destination. The idyllic nature encourages multiple species to co-exist in harmony, despite the growing number of visitors. It is here that the famous “Kingfisher” (“Guarda-rios”) by Bordallo II was born.

After the lunch, the group was taken to Aveiro, where those fortunate were able to get up-close and personal with VHILS for the first time - a dazzling face carved into a wall appearing next to Aveiro’s Railway Station. VHILS has been developing a very unique visual language, starting out from the more illegal and intervention-side of graffiti, working on the removal of surface layers of walls, objects and other, non-conventional media, which aim symbolically to establish a relation of continuity between cultural and social disparities. VHILS’s artwork is a revolution in the stencil technique in its use of unusual tools. Through the destruction of walls, he explores the layers of urban space and its history. Old papers, worn out posters, wood panels, brick walls are attacked with chisels, jackhammer, acid, or explosives, anything and everything goes in order to sculpt his stencil on the wall. VHILS’s portraits underline an important contrast between new and ancient; he makes the inside face of these buildings visible. VHILS tries to give a new face to the city which is, for him, a ground of popular inspirations. VHILS is a founder of Underdogs Gallery, which as of 2010 creates space for urban arts and new visual languages.

I have met Alexander Farto (VHILS) eight years ago personally at the premier of Banksy’s “Exit through the giftshop” organised by Lebowski Publishing at Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam). I own a book and have seen his mural in Berlin. But to be so close to his creation in his own country is, indeed, the first time.

The busy day ended with - FOOD! The eloquent dinner was served in the Restaurant O Bairro.

All in all - SAMA has finally made it to PORTUGAL and just before bed, I managed to have a quick walk through the village.

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