Street art in Madrid is not as famous as it is in New York, London, or Berlin, but a grassroots movement — starring spray paint, paper paste-ups, and even plant pots — is quickly growing. In the Spanish capital, street artists have splashed paint on the walls of warehouses, abandoned factories, apartment buildings, and dozens of garage doors, showing the city can be just as wild and creative as Barcelona — if not more.
In a few of the city’s young, lively neighbourhoods, like Lavapiés and Malasaña, the city is lit up by a group of underground artists who have reclaimed the streets as an open-air museum.
It all traces back to an organization called the Madrid Street Art Project. It has created an annual graffiti festival called Pinta Malasaña, which sees local and international artists painting the doors and gates of stores in local neighbourhoods.
Most of Madrid’s street art can be found in Lavapiés, a district which was used for squatters in the 1980s, but is now a thriving multicultural area lined with Moroccan restaurants, artist studios, and low-key nightclubs.
Around the area of the La Tabacalera building, artists and collectives — like Rogerio Fernandes, from Brazil, and Boa Mistura, a Madrid-based street art group of five artists with the goal of using art to build bridges between communities — show their work. They’ve painted everything from a large graphic mural painted on the side of a soccer field to one that reads “Future, Change, Strength” in the city’s downtown core.
Every summer, the Calle Lavapiés street art festival kicks off with street art over buildings by local artists like Italian artist MoneyLess, local artists Nacho, as well as 3-D shapes by Manoteras, Mireia Ruiz, and Brazilian street artist Zezão.
One abandoned warehouse called La Neomudejar is a popular centre for Madrid street art. The building itself is an old electricity factory in the Retiro district that was built in 1885. Today, it’s an experimental venue devoted to urban art, parkour, and performance, among other disciplines. It’s a sort of next-level art school; there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. Visitors can take a guided tour, meet the local artists, and photograph the venue’s art collection, most of which is spray-painted directly onto the old walls and windows.
La Tabacalera itself is another off-the-radar factory turned urban art space. This former tobacco factory is a 30,000-square-foot museum filled with graffiti and street art that occasionally hosts musical performances, whether it’s a local DJ or a classical orchestra. This venue truly is a must-see for culture vultures and has garnered a reputation for being a community hub where artists meet, collaborate, and show their work outside of the constraints of the sometimes-elitist art world.
Street art in Madrid is more than just spray paint and paste-ups, however. One creative duo is putting up plants where street posters might otherwise hang in a project called Plants of Posters. Local designers Juan Frias and Fede Moreno use poster paste-ups as a base for DIY plant pots, which they hang on walls, then fill with soil and greenery around the city; their website has six different designs anyone can print out. The goal is to draw attention to the small concrete spaces that can be filled with greenery.
At Campo de Cebada, an open air cultural space set on the abandoned plot that was left after the La Latina sports centre was demolished, the goal is to give back public space to the neighbourhood with free events for families, friends, and new faces alike. It’s home to concerts, street art, musical comedy, and salsa dancing. You can spot it from afar by the colourful murals that surround the space.
Last but not least, the outskirts of the city are home to several mural masterpieces. Head out to the Tetuán district, which has a famed skate park and a mural of two twins on a pair of apartment buildings by street artist Borondo. In the Vallecas district, a suburban area on the outskirts of the city, the street artist Hyuro — who hails from Argentina — sheds light on women’s issues with images of the female form wrapped up in construction tape, proving that street art is more than just a boys’ club.
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