One of our favourite street artist of all time is Blu, an Italian-born street artist who we were first introduced to on our first trip abroad together as a couple – way-back-when – to the German capital of Berlin. What we saw there was one of his earliest works which has become incredibly well known due to it’s location in the incredibly popular hipster hangout of Kreuzberg, and also because of it’s close proximity to the East Side Gallery.
So, a few years later when we returned to Italy in 2013 we couldn’t help but want to return to another city that had come under the smart and artist paint brush of Blu.
With a few of our close friends from Franca’s hometown, we head off to Grottaglie, a southern Italian city that we had visited once before for it’s internationally recognised street art festival, Fame Festival. Featuring artists from all over the world, Fame Festival is led by a local community group of promising artists who want to reawaken the creative heart of the city that was once one of the industrial centres for ceramic arts, a craft that in recent years has slowly started to disappear under the smog of other industrial plants opening in the city.
Where Are You, Blu?
Having been once before we knew that we were in for a visual delight whether we came across our favourite street artist or not. All across the city, out in the open and hidden down alleyways an inside disused buildings are works from Italians, Brazilians, French, Americas – you name it.
Our friends knew where some were located, but when in a town that’s not your own it’s always best to tap into local knowledge and that’s exactly what we did.
Fortunately for us we had more friends in Grottaglie and were as much coming to see them as we were the art, and thankfully, they had enough time in their day to jump in another car and lead us on an exhilarating quest through town for street art and our hero, Blu.
Our drag race around the city had us whizzing past a number of street art pieces, some of which we’d seen before on our previous visit, others new to us completely.
After stopping at one piece and discussing the location of others, our “guides” led us finally out of the centre and out towards the outskirts where more and more apartment blocks have sprang up over the past 5 years – and there we started to spot some real gems
We found ourselves within the close proximity of two Erica il cane pieces, one that you can see above, the other below. Both of which are use great colour and imagination to bring animals not only to life, but alive with character.
Just around the corner is another work, this time by the Norwegian, Dolk; yet another internationally recognised master of the spray can and paint brush painting, what looks to me, like a statement of the phenomenon of child soldiers fighting when they should be enjoying their childhood.
As you wander round the area taking shots of one mural here and a street art piece there, you can’t help yourself spotting other pieces in the distance that you want to hurry off to before everyone else has finished looking at the piece before last – and that’s exactly what we did.
I couldn’t help myself, I was running here, running there and jumping in and out of the car whenever it came close to slowing down. It felt like such an adventure finding all of these hidden masterpieces and after jumping out of the car at one corner of the street, I ran down the other to take a few shots of the piece above by the Spanish artist Escif.
Across from there was a detailed piece by another Italian artist called Moneyless who works around the field of geometry to create painted murals and sculptures made of wire and string. Unfortunately the picture below doesn’t really give this detailed piece the justice it deserves.
But It’s Still Not Blu
By this point we’re on a race against time as the sun was fast disappearing and leaving us with not much light to continue taking pictures of what must be hundreds of pieces of across the city.
Fortunately, our friends-cum-guides had one last place they were “almost certain” had our seen the touches of our idol, so, we sped across the opposite side of town and pulled the car up close to a magnificent new piece by a Ukrainian artist utterly unknown to us before, but certainly one we’ll be looking out for in the future.
The bright tall piece covering the entire side of this building is by the artist AEC, and brought so much brightness to the gradually darkening scene around us.
Also within this small area was a piece by the now quite famous artist Vhils, someone we fell in love with during our last visit for the mindblowing work done with minimal materials, but maximum skill. His talent isn’t in the art of spraying onto a surface, rather, how to take the surface away in order to create something from nothing.
And across the road and on the side of a rather horrid looking hotel is our man, our masterpiece – Blu.
You can’t believe how great it felt for us both to finally lay our eyes on to this street art piece after all our racing around. It’s like meeting your idol in person, at first you’re stumbling over your words, but then you finally gain some control and you start to appreciate the moment.
We really appreciated the piece, and more so, really appreciated the the effort by all of our friends to ferry us around all evening to satisfy our desires. We couldn’t ask for better friends.
After that we went for a bite to eat in the pizza place right beneath Blu’s piece, and whilst we all caught our breaths and wolfed down delicious pizza, myself and Franca began to plot another day where we could return to find more great masterpieces.
Again, huge thanks to Jessica who, in support of our journey, bought us lunch.