The one thing I loved most about Valencia was getting to speak to a bunch of local creatives who are really passionate about both the city and their art. Jaume Gómez Muñoz is one of them, he guided me through the city’s most iconic pieces of street art. He holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Valencia and is an expert in urban art and graffiti. Yes, there is a difference, watch out! So here are my favourite snaps coupled with Jaume’s insight, grab an empty notebook and start sketching I’d say!

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What fascinates you about street art in Valencia?

The first thing to clarify is that Street Art is a label to define two groups of parallel and sometimes juxtaposed art phenomena: graffiti and urban art or independent public creativity.

As a graffiti writer and amateur photographer, I like the many places to paint, the open-minded society, and also the possibility to shoot and film graffiti writers and urban artists at work.

How has it evolved over the last few years?

From 1988 to 2000, we only had graffiti and political ads, but in 2001 one of the most interesting street artists started to work in the city centre in the Carmen neighboorhood.

Then, over the last 16 years, both styles have worked side by side and evolved. It’s like a competitive and very aesthetic game! Street art is a lot about having an effect on society. It’s more politicized and both aims at provoking urban change and enjoying art.

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What are current trends?

It’s a little complicated to talk about trends because writers need to defend their own style. Generally speaking though, Valencia’s writers stand out for their simplicity.

At street art scene, Valencia has artists working with handmade paint, stencils, murals, interventions with wood, knittings, and wheat pastes. All the global trends and technics are represented on a local scale too.

Who are your favourite artists and why?

I’m a big fan of Bois 76 and Esik because of the energy they represent in their pieces, the funny characters in the work of Tabe and the amazing styles of Ove and Ozzy.

Locally, I enjoy the political work of Escif which uses a lot of irony to draw people’s attention to our consumerist society.

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How would you compare Valencia’s street art to the one in London, Berlin or Brooklyn?

As I said before, street art is the sum of graffiti and independent public creativity. I would say there is more variety here in Valencia than probably in London. But Valencia is a perfect spot to paint because always is sunny! That’s one of the basic reasons that we have such a strong tradition.

What’s the difference between street art and graffiti?

Graffiti in my opinion is an experiential game which originated in the 1960s. It takes place in urban and suburban spaces. This game is based on the ability of writers to “hang out” illegally while they “tag” spots and leave their own contextual signature. Through these challenges writers work their way up in the subcultural scene and earn the respect and sometimes fame of their peers.

On the other hand, you’ve got independent public creativity, commonly referred to as urban art. They are a set of urban experimental practices like painting freehand, spray-painting-not letters, characters, icons and logos. The aim of the creators is usually to get a personal, playful and liberating experience. They may also occasionally want to provoke the public into thinking differently about an issue in society or politics.

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What makes a really good piece of street art for you? And how does one spot a bad one?

A good piece of street art is a work that has a strong relationship with the space that surrounds it. I particularly love the pieces that have a political message and therefore act as a liberation space. A classic example of that would be the works of Ernest Pignon-Ernest in the 1970s in Paris.

But I also enjoy the projects of community street art where artists works together with inhabitants to build a real sense of community through their common work. Again, another example of that would be John Fekner’s work in New York in the 80s.

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Thanks so much for your time and enthusiasm, Jaume!

Are you a fan of street art? Which cities have inspired you with urban art? 

All photos taken by Caroline Schmitt