Street-art is one of the most hybrid forms of artistic expression in our modern world. Socially, it can be used as a tool to change neighborhoods all over the world. Politically, it can voice and transcend instantly, changing rhetoric and opinion through direct communication to the masses. Murals, and public art can become influential, very quickly; from Shepard Fairey‘s iconic Hope image that became adopted by pro Obama supporters to Banksy’s “Free Zehra Dogan” mural, which appeared in New York City. It has the power to convey a message across the globe.
In 2018 artists such as Banksy, Alessio Bolognesi, Nevercrew, Hyuro among others created influential murals that mastered the art of communicating what everyone else is thinking or should be thinking. From tribute and protest murals that immortalized activists to depicting civic moments in history that were both celebrated and grieved, here are ten impactful murals from the year.
Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic returns for a second year of Splash and Burn with a giant SOS distress call carved into the landscape of an oil palm plantation; calling attention to the ongoing destruction of Indonesia’s forests and wildlife.
Located on Houston Street and Bowery, the 70 foot wall consists of black hash marks, which represent jail cell bars and count the number of days that Dogan has spent in prison. Her left hand grips a bar that doubles as a pencil. “Free Zehra Dogan” is written in the bottom right corner as she still has 18 months left to serve. The political statement was a collaboration with the graffiti artist Borf, who has also spent time in jail for his work.
Schisto refugee camp, located in Athens is a temporary home to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. To help address the importance of community and bring people together Danish Refugee Council teamed up with aptART (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) with the support of the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), and together launched a mural project where artists painted the camp’s library, offices and kindergarten with bright colours and messages highlighting the beauty of coexistence and power of collaboration.
Raising awareness to Indigenous issues such as the Aboriginal people, for the second part of the Shepparton Aboriginal Street Art Project Adnate created a tribute mural of the iconic Yorta Yorta women Aunty Margaret Tucker and Nanny Nora Charles whom made their marks in the form of activism, government and midwifery.
In Spain, five young men gang raped an 18-year-old-girl and were sentenced to trail. Although the sentence declared them guilty of sexual abuse, according to the judge there was no rape since they did not perceive violence or intimidation. The court refused to condemn them for sexual assault and instead opted for the slightest criminal type of sexual abuse. With the inequality women have faced for decades, there was no better time for the Argentinian artist, Hyuro to use the opportunity at the 2018 TEST Festival to spread awareness to this issue with her mural “Patriarcado.”
Marielle Franco, the 38-year-old Brazilian activist known for defending Rio’s black, LGBT and favela communities was brutally murdered in Rio de Janeiro in March of 2018. The Aidél cooperative, together with the Italian street artist Alessio Bolognesi created a mural that pays tribute to the human rights activist and is a gift to the Krasnodar district of Ferrara, Italy.
Nestled in the alpines of Rhine, the swiss duo Nevercrew gifted the oldest town in Switzerland a mural that approached the tension regarding nature and humanity’s relationship. “Home Ground” presents a visual theme that explores the sharing of natural resources between humankind and other natural beings, and not perceived only from the human perspective.
Florencia “Fitz” Duran, of the well-known Uruguayan artistic duo Colectivo Licuado addressed the incredibly personal nature of self-image. Located in La Bañeza, Spain the work symbolizes the artist’s empowering statement that “I choose, I choose over my body, my sexuality, my present, and future.” There are so many cacophonous viewpoints all espousing the “correct way” for a woman to regard herself. Perhaps it’s time to allow every woman to handle it for herself.
In October, the walls of the People’s History Museum in Manchester received a tribute mural for a historic massacre that took place in Manchester in 1819. Curated by Cities Of Hope, Axel Void created “Peterloo” paying respect to the sacrifices of the marginalized and oppressed who gave their everything, to stand against injustice.
A mural drawn by the two Australian artists Fintan Magee & Guido van Helten was unveiled in November in the Iranian capital Tehran to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Iran and Australia. This was the first time foreign artists have been granted permission to paint in the country since the 1979 revolution. This mural is based on images of two carpet repairmen working in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. At a time when sanctions are again affecting the country’s economy the artists wanted to focus on the people who are the real victims of decisive foreign policy. They also wanted to show the resilience of the Iranian people and how life goes on in this hospitable, welcoming and ancient culture.