A street art festival in Athens about Athens, with no artists from Athens


The Greek street artist Bleeps painted the above piece in response to a recent street art festival in Athens. Essentially, a mural festival was held ostensibly to spark discussion about the economic crisis in Greece and “on the controversial issue of the value of street art in a period of crisis.” Oddly it would then seem, the festival featured no Greek artists. This raises the issue of street artists being flown around the world to paint murals in communities to which they have no connection to in order to aid the existing power structures there. Bleeps says:

[In] the field of street art which has become a main “attraction” for the last decade, we have been experiencing the proliferation by corporate logic and the state in an “antagonistic” policy, while independent voices are either kept in silence, or subjugated.

Most recently the Αthens School of Fine Arts (state University) in collaboration with municipality of Nikea and private galleries organized a “crisis” street art festival entitled “CRISIS?WHAT CRISIS?”, from which Greek artivists were of course excluded. The organizers invited 20 European artists to create works for the festival. The formal argument of the Αthens School of Fine Arts to exclude local artists was that graffiti and street art in Athens are mostly anonymous and of dubious artistic value. The attempt to commodify art in the public sphere and the “politicized” orientated one, is more than obvious.

In addition to that a festival’s spokesman stated that the goal of the imported artists is to start a discourse with the local ones. Of course no discourse can occur on the basis of exclusion.

There are some amazing street art festivals around the world, but there’s something to be said for the argument that festivals and murals are antithetical to street art and graffiti. I imagine there is more to the story here than just Bleeps’ critique (although I can’t find much about the festival online), but I think Bleeps makes a valid point. Maybe next year Bleeps will be invited to take part in the festival, but I hope he declines the invitation. After all, capitalism is absolutely brilliant at co-opting it’s critics. As @JonHanna recently tweeted, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they make you a brand, then they win.”

Photo by Bleeps

  • blackops23

    fantastic. thank you for drawing attention to this!

  • MPReed

    Great piece, thanks for putting it out there.

  • kevin Harrison

    Interestingly there was an article in the Guardian this morning about ‘street art’ on the canal by the Olympic site in east London about a similar and worrying tendency for big business to sponsor cleaning off graffiti and repainted by ‘internationally renowned street artist’ This sanitises this democratic and public space! Gentrification rules!

  • Peter Drew

    Great read! I love it how large institutions like the Athens School of Fine Art can claim such lofty authority in recognising the value of art then turn around and do something like this. It just demonstrates a kind of lazy ignorance towards a counter-culture that’s based upon the way communities connect to places. That’s why I think It’s easier to make institutions look stupid than it is to make them feel guilty for being capitalists, especially in a place like Greece.

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  • tile8eatis

    To be honest it wasn’t really a festival. We could call it a street art event. But it was really weird to have no Greek artists, as there are some great ones. Can’t believe the Athens School of Fine Arts said something like that officially. It could be some vague statement from the event organizers.