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  • Writer's pictureErica Stella

On The Road: Madrid, Spain

It was during my first trip to Europe in 2010, I realized graffiti and public pieces of urban art were not native to my hometown of NYC. I've learned so much since then, and know how naive a thought that was at the time. But it was then that my curiosity was peaked, a brand new Nikon digital SLR was put in my hands, and a change began. My career path would soon swerve left, and I found a groove documenting street art, the artists and culture, and everything I saw along the way.

As 2018 came around the corner, I realized I'd be celebrating a milestone birthday, and it was an excellent excuse for another European adventure. I put two cities on my list: Madrid & Rome (More on my trip to Italy coming soon). Going back with an art hunter's eye, I would enjoy each city in a much different way. I'm fortunate to have a close friend who lives and teaches in Madrid. She and I would leave the kids with her husband for the next leg of the adventure, but I got time with the kids also. When I'm there visiting, I really get a sense of what daily life is like in the capital of Spain.

The only destination on my "Madrid Street Art List" was La Tabacalaera, a cultural and art center located in the Lavapiés neighborhood in the Old Tobacco Factory of Madrid. The history of the building dates back to the 1700's, but it was in this Century, 2007 that the building was acquired by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. In 2010, the Ministry heard the demands of the neighborhood and ceded the Tobacco Factory to a group of artists and citizens. In March 2010, the La Tabacalera de Lavapiés "Self-managed Social Center" association was created, which manages part of the building. That is where today, we find a semi-hidden gem of curated urban art from around the world.

On the way to exploring the actual tobacco factory, the surrounding neighborhood of Lavapies also housed some beautiful public art. Commissioned and un-commissioned art, I was injected into the global scene of the area; tattoo shops, barber shops and cafes on every block. Since I was discovering work as I went, ID's on each artist are not consistent. I'll update the post as more names are found. The artists I did know or learned about were: DEIH on a split wall, what was left of a Hyuro from 2015, a portrait of Eve by zecarrion, and a beautiful corner Okuda that was fun to shoot from various angles.

The outside of the building were pieces also commissioned by La Tabacalera. The notable gate by Juako enters into one part of the building, and the rest of the murals were along the other side of the block; lolofónico, zoonchez, Julieta XLF, animalitoland, KOCTEL. This long aisle of square pieces were fun to shoot as pairs or with smart cars! We find another Okuda right in the middle of the section; this dog reminded me of the ceiling we visited at the Church of Cannibus in Denver, CO!

Once inside the building, we headed straight for the basement (baja), where the graffiti art is housed. The closer we got to the tunnels of La Tabacalera; I could smell the aerosol in the air, and felt the base of the music getting stronger through my Nikes! The lighting was terrible in the tunnels, and I was blindly shooting some walls. This massive collection was so filled with new artists for me, I was excited to start my research, and discover new voices. Artists ID'ed: EMEA, JIMBO DELAGHETTO, Vuelco, ELNO, YATUSABES, Casassola Raul Muñoz, RBN, KOCTEL, Ianah, Cranio, Ethan Armen, Simón Vázquez ...working on the rest.

The Patio of La Tabacalera was our last leg of the exploration, and definitely the grand finale. Not only larger murals, a Sabek collab gate, and a beautiful ROA, but it is where I found Fumero's mural of Salvador Dalí. Although 1/2 of the piece had been covered; the portrait remained, and was the first piece you saw when you came outdoors. My first day in Spain, and I had already seen so much art!

In the next leg of my trip to Rome, Italy, I found many characters that repeated throughout my visit, I can't wait to introduce them all! I also found a few repeats around Madrid. More importantly after finding a piece, then their instagram; I was opened to their world of characters all over the world! May I introduce you to this cute little pup, Dingoperromundo:

Dingoperromundo with friends RBN and Ciril Vidal

RBN was another fun face found in and around La Tabacalera, and can be found all over Europe as well... I would love to see both come to NYC soon!


On the last day of the vacation, we had the opportunity to visit Plaza Mayor and the surrounding area, which I remembered from my first trip. During the walk, I found many small stickers and wheatpastes, but I also stumbled upon a unique Findac, a portrait of model Christina Nadin.

This trip was not meant to visit street art, it was to spend quality time with a close friend. But I was in a European city, and I saw it everywhere I went! As I have done further research about the pieces throughout the city, you would definitely need a car to check out everything, there were larger murals off the subway line that I didn't get to. But any walk about a neighborhood with your eyes peeled, will teach you about the street culture of the city itself. Stay tuned for the next leg of the trip to Rome, Italy - and take a walk down the wrong street on your next getaway!

Keep your head up - you might find something new.

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