Open Walls Conference in Barcelona has just closed its fourth edition, consolidating itself as the festival of reference for the international urban art scene. The public packed out La Nau Bostik, a former industrial space in la Sagrera, which has hosted most of this year’s mural interventions from renowned artists as well as Unlock, the first editorial fair specialized in graffiti and urban art, book presentations, workshops; music and amazing gastronomy from the street food fair Eat Street. The program was also supplemented by a debate about urban art conservation, gathering numerous international speakers and more than a hundred attendees at the CCCB.
Ten distinguished artists painted pieces on several walls of La Nau Bostik during the Conference too. Fasim, one of the leading graffiti writers in Barcelona during the nineties, painted a five-part large format piece on the exterior wall of the building. British artist Syrup, working with Hat and Aeec, presented the editorial project Versus in the context of the festival, painting pieces on the Ferran Turné approach of La Nau Bostik. The second entrance, located on the Pont del Treball Digne street, was painted by Dumar. The New York artist executed a work from his ‘The Subway Art history project’ series.
Other artists included Roc Blackblock, with a strong message against sexist violence; Muretz, with one of his iconic characters; and SheOne, who has painted the longest section of the industrial space, have all created pieces all over the main corridor of La Nau Bostik. Sebastien Waknine, a London artist established in Barcelona, and Sam3, who has also painted a piece in Poblenou in the context of the festival, complete the group of artists who worked in La Nau Bostik during this year’s Open Walls Festival.
Another huge success this year were the Open Walls Conference workshops, with four workshops organised during the festival. Mohamed Lghacham shared his knowledge with the attendees in the mural painting workshop, where participants were able to try their hand on one of the walls in La Nau Bostik. Kids created their own drawbots in the workshop held by Makerkids and in the graffiti with drones workshop, a member of Flone Lot Amorós gave the curious ones a chance to discover in-situ the possibilities of this technology in graffiti application. Monostereo printers also taught the basic techniques of serigraphy in two workshops in which attendees were able to take their own printed bags and t-shirts home.
Unlock created a gathering point for the specialised editorial sector as the first editorial fair specialising in graffiti and urban art, creating a showcase and a gathering point for the growing network of publications in this field. More than fifty European and American editors shared both the space and experiences in La Nau Bostik. They showed their productions to the public, who had the opportunity to attend more than ten presentations in total.
New thoughts on the urban art conservation debate at the Open Walls Conference kept the debate around urban art progressive. This year, the festival proposed one of the most relevant questions of the moment: should urban art be preserved? The roundtable at the CCCB; with Christian Omodeo, Elena Gayo, Jorge RodríguezGerada and Javier Abarca as the moderator, gave voice to the highly contrasting opinions, confirming that there is still a lot of work to do and a long list of questions to answer regarding urban art conservation. Christian Omodeo’s decision on ripping several Blu mural pieces off the street in order to include them in his ‘Street Art: Banksy and Co’ exposition was the main focus during most of the conference and caused an intense debate. Elena Gayo, coordinator of a work group about urban art conservation at the GEIIC, pointed out that “the fact that someone decides to cover up a work that has been in a wall for 50 years, is something we had never faced before”, and that, as conservators, “they are on the artist’s side”. Omodeo, on the other hand, insisted on the fact that the important thing was to face “the need to speak about what preserving urban art means”. Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, who added the artist’s point of view to the debate, assured that “the problem is the law”, because, at the end of the day, “when I finish a piece, it is no longer mine”, he stated. Around 150 people attended and took part in this debate on Friday October 28th.
The four days of activities added up to the biggest mural intervention ever painted in Barcelona, which opened the fourth edition of the festival. A record-breaking piece was painted by Sixe Paredes from his series ‘El espíritu de la montaña’ on the building located in 424 Lepanto street, in the Horta Guinardó district of Barcelona. A packed program for the Open Walls Conference consolidated the festival as a gathering point for the most renowned artists of the new muralism scene, as well as a solid promotion platform for the urban art in Barcelona.
Photos courtesy: Fer Alcalá and Audrey García