Street Artists Remake a Downtown Bank

A few weeks ago, a crew of some of BA’s top local street artists turned one of the Centro’s blandest bank branches into a colorful fantasyscape, the opening event in a city-wide urban art competition. For a gallery of much better photos by Andy Donohoe, check out my original post on Juanele’s blog.

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Scaffolding and supplies had arrived late, so Buenos Aires street artists Poeta, Corona, Gone, and Roma acutely felt the pressure to finish before Tuesday afternoon’s press opening. Told they’d be given two full days to complete the giant collaborative mural for Fundación Itaú’s unremarkable bank branch at the corner of Bartolomé Mitre and Suipacha, the team found they would have closer to half that time.

When 5 PM rolled around, three of the four — Corona, Gone, and Roma — were still at work. Only Poeta had finished his part. As artists frantically sprayed and shaded the façade, inside the bank officials from sponsor Fundación Itaú, a new street art NGO called Estilo Libre (Free Style), and Buenos Aires City celebrated the results of their still-unfolding efforts.

More than a face lift for a building in need, this project was Estilo Libre’s introduction to the city, and a high-profile way for it to announce its first major project: an Itaú-sponsored competition that will assign prime city wall space to 70 aspiring painters, with big cash awards for the murals judged to be best. The group, a collaboration between eleven artists and a bunch of professional types, has high hopes for strengthening urban artistic expression in Buenos Aires, with plans to host a local Meeting of Styles event in October and dreams of an eventual BA street academy.

It’s not hard to understand why Itaú chose this particular branch to make over — prior to Tuesday, it was a giant, bland white cube, unadorned except for the orange-and-blue Itaú signage on both street-facing facades–a terribly unimpressive companion to the delightful, mosaic-laced Iglesia de San Miguel just across Bartolomé Mitre. Now, thanks to Corona, Gone, Poeta, and Roma, it’s the liveliest building on the block. The four street artists made excellent work of the few hours they were given.

Poeta’s jazzy tropicalia monster, visible along Suipacha, is undoubtedly one of his coolest creations. (“I’m a person that likes time pressure,” he told me, and I believe him.) At its edge, Poeta’s cool palate welcomes the orange and brown accents of Corona’s multicolored vertical village, a departure from the artist’s usual twisty, interlocking forms and long-faced figures. On Bartolomé Mitre, Gone’s grey lizard faces down a bionic explosion of geometric patterns and scaly tentacles a la Roma. Overall, the mural is surprisingly coherent without feeling forced or homogenized. Its common palate of colors and a shared fluidity of forms suggest four distinct hands working in something close to one rhythm.

Unlike some of the city’s more tenuous street art, this mural has an air of permanence. Its colors seem almost richer for it, though that’s probably just in my head. Either way, the project is the best thing to happen to Suipacha since peatonalización.

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