Angry Street Art is Making Athens Hip, Says the Economist

The British magazine Economist says that anti-austerity artists are impressing the tourists in Athens with their imaginative street art and graffiti on buildings.

Much of the graffiti scrawled or stencilled on empty buildings and shuttered shop fronts has a resentful tone. “Vasanizomai” (“I’m being tortured”) is one popular slogan.

“Kleista gia panta” (“Closed forever”) is another, as one in four retailers in the city’s centre has gone out of business since the crisis started in 2009.

EUROKINISSI/Tatiana Bolari

Street artists, though, are faring better, says the Economist. No longer considered vandals, some even win commissions to spray-paint a sponsor’s chosen site.

The magazine interviewed Nikos, a “resting” street artist who these days guides well-heeled foreign tourists around grimy downtown districts to view the most talked-about pieces.

He said that new themes such as feminism and the plight of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece, are gradually replacing anti-austerity work.

EUROKINISSI/Τatiana Bolari

“The art here used to be angry and unsightly, but now it’s wittier…there’s resignation, but there’s energy, too,” says Michael Landy, a British artist, who worked in Athens earlier this year.

City-hall officials keep a careful watch says the Economist.

Too big a concentration of graffiti looks threatening and makes tourists feel unsafe, says Elina Dallas, an architect heading the renovation of Trigono, an old-fashioned central neighbourhood, that became a target of “taggers” spray-painting scores of personal symbols on walls and doorways.

EUROKINISSI/Stelios Misinas

When a giant portrait of a fierce-looking owl; the emblem of Athens since ancient times, was itself graffitied, it was quickly cleaned up. The owl; which was painted by an Asian street artist, has become as famous as any museum piece.