Fomento Territorial – Blog

Art Everywhere: 12 Projects Transform Public Spaces into Guerrilla Galleries

Street artists turn entire cities into open-air galleries, but there are countless ways to carry out urban art interventions, and they’re at their most fun when they subvert existing structures. Virtually anything can be transformed into a surface or medium for art: billboards, phone booths, construction walls, street signs and even furniture discarded on the curb. Sometimes the motivation is political – calling attention to how much public space is dedicated to advertising, for example – but sometimes it’s just fun, like painting clown faces on busted couches.

Art in Ad Places Takes on Phone Booths

Pay phones themselves may have largely disappeared long ago, but the shelters that held them can often still be found on the sidewalks of large cities like New York. ‘Art in Ad Places,’ a campaign replacing outdoor advertising with artwork, partners with artists to install their work in these shelters. 55 new pieces went up in 2017. They say they believe outdoor advertising is visual pollution, psychologically damaging and pushed on viewers without their consent – but the places it’s found is ripe for subversion for other messages. “By replacing advertisements with artwork, Art in Ad Places provides a public service and an alternative vision of our public environment,” they explain.

Vermibus Remixes Ads with Acid

An artist known as Vermibus reduces the impact of advertisements by sweeping through cities and modifying ads with acid to rob them of context and turn them into strange painterly works of art. It’s a literal smear campaign, and it’s kind of genius. All he has to do is don a safety vest, remove the ads, take them home to transform them and then put them back up.

“By opening those spaces, I make them vulnerable and I create a conversation not only with the brands or the companies that put advertising in the public space but also with the citizen, breaking the unidirectional message,” the artist says in an interview with Open Walls Gallery. “Awareness is a very important and personal part of every artwork… the adverts might be legitimate if the viewer decides consciously to see them. But in order to have a conscious decision about that, we need to be aware of their dangers and for that we should be informed in the first place. [Advertising] is addictive, affects mentally and chemically our body, our decisions, our environment… it has a huge risk on all the levels that we are ignoring.”

Curbside Furniture Art by Lonesome Town

The unwanted furniture we kick out to the curb gets a chance to vent, however temporarily, in the hands of artist Lonesome Town. Traveling through Los Angeles, the artist paints sad clown faces on couches, chairs, computer monitors and other rejects. For a few brief days, each piece gets its time in the spotlight, becoming a work of art before it’s hauled off to the dump to die. Follow Lonesometown9 on Instagram for lots more.

Spontaneous Temporary Interventions by Brad Downey

American-born, Berlin-based artist Brad Downey is a master of Dada hacktivism, turning everyday objects and infrastructure in cities into whimsical, temporary works of art. A bike left chained beside a river might become a fountain, for example; he’ll put a public bench on skates, cut out a chunk of the pavement and stand it on end, tear down street signs and reassemble them into spiky sculptures. Sometimes his larger sculptural works are commissioned, but more often, he’s working intuitively, taking opportunities as he sees them. Each piece is a fun reinterpretation of its materials, sometimes rendering the objects useless and sometimes making them more effective.

OX Takes Over Billboards

French street artist and culture jammer OX loves nothing more than to paste up huge abstract works of art over a series of adjacent billboards and other ad spaces, turning an eyesore into fun splashes of vivid color. Though his works are often quickly torn down by authorities and advertising companies, he aims to liven up the cityscape for however long they may survive. The results highlight just how much of any given city is dedicated to selling products and services.

Hacked Street Signs by Clet Abraham

French painter Clet Abraham hacks street signs, using their imagery to create humorous works of art. The original meaning is often left intact, but there’s an extra layer intended to make you laugh or think. His work isn’t exactly legal, but is often left up for long periods since the signs are still usable. “I don’t damage the signs – because I use stickers – but I wake up attention and I create a dialogue,” he says. No Entry signs are his favorite. While the artist has become popular enough to sometimes collaborate with authorities on intentional modifications for certain events and holidays, the work remains dangerous much of the time – his girlfriend Mami Urakawa was arrested in Osaka, Japan on charges of vandalism on one particular jaunt.

JR’s Urban Photography Exhibitions

The whole world is an art museum for photographer JR, who travels the globe photographing its citizens and pasting the oversized images in public places. His unique combination of photography and street art often tackles big issues like poverty and immigration head-on, making them impossible to ignore. For one project, he took portraits of elderly residents and blew them up to take over entire building facades, illuminating their character and humanity. Ultimately, his works create an emotional connection between the subjects and the viewers, making people who are often overlooked impossible to ignore.

Bordalo II’s Painted Train Tracks

Train tracks aren’t known for being the most beautiful aspect of any city, but when street artist Artur Bordalo comes through, that changes. All he needs is a little spray paint. “I use railroad tracks as a canvas – it’s a metaphor for the life we live,’ he says. “They are located in restricted areas, and as hard as it is to access them and to take pictures, I post them later where people can see them – online – where we live.”

Brandalism Replaces Bus Shelter Ads with Art

In the UK, an international collective of artists called Brandalism “revolts against corporate control of culture and space” by taking over ad spaces that usually celebrate consumption. “Brandalism use ‘subvertising’ as a lens through which we can view the intersectional social & environmental justice issues that capitalism creates,” they say. Their work ends up on all kinds of surfaces, including bus shelters throughout London’s busiest shopping district, as seen here.

Britain’s Red Phone Boxes Turned into Mini Galleries

When Britain finally acknowledged that its famous red phone boxes were facing extinction, they ended up with 7,000 of them scattered through the streets, losing money via maintenance costs. But the British Telecommunications group (BT) didn’t want to just destroy this visual element of the nation’s heritage. So they offered many of them to the public to be transformed into new uses. Some of them ended up becoming mini libraries, sculptures or even vending machines, but one became ‘Gallery on the Green,’ billed “probably the smallest gallery in the world.”

Info Pillars Takeover in Toronto by cARTographyTO

A guerrilla group called cARTographyTO hacked 35 info pillars located throughout Toronto – which are supposed to contain useful information for people exploring the city on foot, but instead were full of ads – and put art in them instead. The aim of the project was to force the city to recognize that its info pillars were completely pointless, and it worked.

“We believe that it is sometimes necessary to reclaim public space from persistent and predatory private interests through non-violent and non-destructive creative tactics,” the group told GOOD. “We believe it is important to remain active and engaged with the city around us and we aim to raise awareness and generate discussion about our public spaces. We think these structures should be removed entirely, but failing this, that the structures should be drastically redesgined: ads should be removed and useful information should be an integral part of any ‘info’ pillars. In many cases, the art pieces that cARTographyTO installed are maps of the surrounding neighborhood – the contributors’ personal take on the area, its composition, complete with way finding tips.”

Harlem Art Collective Takes Over a Construction Wall

An abandoned wall outside a stalled construction site in Harlem was an eyesore. A group of artists called Harlem Art Collective saw it as an opportunity waiting to be grasped. They tried to get official approval, but after waiting an entire year without any replies, they decided to just take over the wall and turn it into ‘Guerrilla Gallery.’ “The wall had been dilapidated for the past eight years. We wanted to beautify the neighborhood and have something people could gather around and talk about.”


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