With this post, I share my self-made Athens Street Art Tour that I created with free learning online tools. Learn to decipher street art in Athens with 4 online sources: a short video, an academic paper, a book, and an online map. By mapping your Athens street art tour, you’ll better feel the spirit of the city and understand why creativity and crisis in the Greek capital are tightly interwoven.

Colorful Expressions of Crisis

Athens Street Art Tour: bowls for cats
Athens Street Art Tour: bowls for cats. © Tatyana Garkavaya

Many European cities that are famous for their street art quarters have a bohemian atmosphere there, highlighted by hippie shops and restaurants.

It’s not the case for Athens street art where artists leave colorful marks all over the city not only in special places.

Street art in the Greek capital has become an expression of everyday mood. Everything becomes a street art masterpiece, from shabby walls and shop windows to drinking bowls for stray animals that are numerous in the city.

Athens’s murals are loud political statements that reflect social unrest and a long-lasting crisis that began in the 1980s. The themes, such as homelessness, anti-racism, and anti-authority, highlight public concerns and the impotence of the government.

Starting Learning Athens Street Art with Online Art Lessons

To enjoy the rich street art in Athens (the first European Capital of Culture), I visited the city off-season, in winter, when the weather is comfortable and allows for long walks. I comprised my guide of 4 online resources that complement each other or can also be used separately.

Free Things to Do in Athens My Self-Made Athens Street Art Tour
Athens Street Art Tour: my short break. © Tatyana Garkavaya

First, let’s learn some theory. The quickest way is to watch a 4-minute video on study.com (registration required), short but very comprehensive. It covers the history and types of street painting.

For those who want deeper exposure to the topic, there’s an incredible article by Sondra Barharach in the British Journal of Aesthetics. After reading it, you’ll never again call street art all the images depicted on urban surfaces. The author explains the key differences between public art and street art using clear examples.

My Self-Made Athens Street Art Tour
My Self-Made Athens Street Art Tour. © Tatyana Garkavaya

Public art is commissioned and protected by the government.

Street art, in contrast, is always made without the permission of the property owner and used to criticize or challenge the local authority.

In addition, publicly sanctioned street art is a hybrid form of both forms. It’s art made without consent, but the community has eventually accepted its ideas and aesthetic features.

Free Things to Do in Athens Athens Street Art Tour
My Self-Made Athens Street Art Tour. © Tatyana Garkavaya

Mapping Street Art in Athens

The website Greek Street Art Map of Athens helps easily find the location of mural paintings. The central area of the city is divided into 4 parts and each is marked with a different colour: Exarchia – black, Psyri – Monastiraki – yellow, Metaxourgeio – Keramikos – Botanikos – orange, and Acropolis – blue.

Athens Street Art Tour
My Self-Made Athens Street Art Tour. © Tatyana Garkavaya

Hovering over the points, you can see what the picture looks like, select the most interesting ones, and draw up a plan for the tour. Overall, there are 80 pieces of street images on the map, the most notable ones. But in reality, they’re more mural paintings in those areas.

My Self-Made Athens Street Art Tour. © Tatyana Garkavaya

The most comprehensive book about notable street artworks is Artists in Athens – City of Crisis by Georg Eichinger and Heiner Legewie. It’s an 88-page exhibition catalog with 14 interviews with Greek artists and social studies.

There’s just one article devoted to street art in the Greek capital but the authors provide a lot of useful information on its roots and the conditions across the country. For many artists, the walls became the last opportunity for free expression considering the bias in media coverage and the decrease in the funding for and income from art.

Now, street art in Athens is also becoming a popular advertising form, and different local businesses commission mural paintings. Like a series of drawings below made for the dance school TangoFix in the city center.

  • Athens Street Art Tour

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