By Lauren Hogan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Street art in Rio gives new meaning to the expression ‘painting the town’ with the vast number of scrawls and spray paintings that color the city. Now with the help of Brazilian pair Julia Murad and Nina Chini Gani, founders of the Rio Street Art Tour, visitors and locals can get an inside look into the street art scene while sharing the stories and meanings behind the different pieces.
The idea for the artsy excursion came after a trip to Buenos Aires this year where Murad, a film school graduate, and Gani, who studied graphic design, were exposed to a graffiti tour. The pair of art lovers returned to Rio thinking they could create something similar in Rio, where street art is legal and enjoys a strong subculture.
“The tour was pretty easy to start, the hardest part was defining a route,” say the two. “It took about four months between having the idea and doing our first tour.”
The four-hour long art adventure, which shows off not only graffiti, but stencils, paste ups and other forms of wall work, starts from the Flamengo subway station where guests receive an intro to tags – an artists’ personal signature – and older graffiti.
Along the route, tourers wind their way through a favela in the bohemian Santa Teresa and see colorful collections in the hip Jardim Botanico before ending at Jeffrey the Duck, a bar in Leblon which celebrates two of the girls’ favorite things: art and the bar’s own brewed beer.
“The tour is a great way to know places that have a concentrated amount of street art, places that were spontaneously selected by the artists as a ‘Hall of Fame,'” says Meton Joffily a street artist who specializes in characters. “It’s also good because you can enjoy the city and the art at the same time.”
“Learning the names and styles of the artists meant the city was opened up to us in a new way; we started recognizing the work of individual artists and the collaborations of the various crew members,” says Chris Hollier who traveled from England to work as a cameraman for the World Cup.
For R$90 per person, the tour includes an air conditioned van ride to each location, a traditional cookie from Rio and access to cheap beer during the ride. An additional bonus comes with the girls inside knowledge. Because they personally know so many of the artists anyone interested in specific pieces can easily be put in touch, like Hollier for example, who, with the help of Gani and Murad, commissioned an artist called ‘Wark’ to do a piece for him.
“There are many amazing talents here and people are usually impressed by how they work their pieces together in the walls,” add the girls. “It’s a friendly graffiti universe, unlike many other parts of the world.”