Graffiti and Street Art in Iceland
Reykjavik is among the top 10 cities in the world when it comes to graffiti and says Fred at bombingscience.com.
We at WOW air love good graffiti. It is like an unexpected treat that appears where you’d least expect it. A thing of beauty and color in the midst of all the clean or the gray. Art that can provoke the viewer and, at the same time, lighten up even the most run down spaces.
Recently bombingscience.com, a global graffiti website, published a list of top 99 cities for graffiti art and to our surprise and pleasure Reykjavik was number 9 on that list. Moreover, 8 of the top 10 cities are among WOW air’s destinations.
BombingScience.com based their list on Instagram data, scanning all photos posted with #graffiti from around the world and then reading their geotags. This means that graffiti in Reykjavik, a tiny city on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the most Instagrammed graffiti in the world.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Fred, founder of BombinbScience.com, about these results and asked him if they were to be expected. “Most of the cities making it in the top 10 were totally expected to be there. We really can’t argue with the fact that New York City, Paris or Berlin are appearing there. South America is also taking a major lead in the graffiti culture these days, so we weren’t surprised to see Sao Paulo and Bogota too in the best cities for graffiti art. The big surprise to us was to see Reykjavik among these megapolises,” Fred told us.
Reykjavik had a really booming graffiti scene in the 90’s and a few years ago graffiti artists also had a haven called Hjartagarðurinn (the Heart Garden) where they had plenty of walls they could put their murals on, it was a community effort that really brightened up the city and more and more artworks were commissioned by the city or private enterprises.
After the Heart Garden was demolished to make room for new buildings in Reykjavik’s center, graffiti artists haven’t had as much room to play on their own but that doesn’t mean graffiti has disappeared. But what could be the reason behind Icelandic graffiti’s popularity on Instagram? “I think the influx of tourists has something to do with it. With airlines like WOW air, it’s now pretty easy for North Americans and Europeans to make a stop-over in Iceland for 1 to 5 days, before continuing their journey to their final destination. That and also the people going to visit only Iceland of course! I can’t talk for the rest of the world, but for the last two years, the prices for flights to Iceland are so ridiculously low from Canada that pretty much everybody is planning a trip to Reykjavik at some point. So yes, I think all these travelers in Reykjavik taking pictures of the city have had a big impact on the fact it is now ranking so high on our list. That and the fact that the graffiti scene in the city is really healthy and creative!” says Fred.
The top 10
Fred has traveled all over the world to photograph graffiti. So how would he describe the difference between the graffiti scenes in the top 10 cities?
“Graffiti is really different from one place to the other. Styles are really regional and we can easily recognize them. For example, the graffiti style in Reykjavik is really similar to the Scandinavian graffiti style, with it’s naive art influences.
“As for New York City and Miami for example, they are destination cities for many artists. These two are cities where you can see mostly street artists coming from abroad, rather than local artists. Art festivals like Art Basel in Miami are huge magnets to bring graffiti writers into the city and repaint whole neighborhoods.
“Most of the graffiti you can find in the world today is coming from the New York City 1960s-1970s subway graffiti aesthetic. One of the most notable exceptions is the pixadores in Sao Paulo. They have a really distinct graffiti style and in fact, it existed even before the graffiti writers begun to paint the trains in New York City.
“Los Angeles also has a really different style compared to New York City. It’s proximity to Mexico has a lot to do with the influences the city gets. If you want to see some street-art easily in LA, I suggest you walk around the Art District near downtown. In fact, you will find similar neighborhoods with this kind of concentration of murals and street-art in a lot of cities, like the Wynwood area in Miami or le Plateau in Montréal. In Reykjavik I would say that a half-day walk around downtown is enough to see most of the street art and murals, as walking or biking around is really easy,” Fred explains.