Valparaíso is the holy grail of street art in Chile, and probably even in all of South America. This bohemian port city is vibrant and bright. It simply exudes artistic creativity and it is nothing short of street art heaven. It is difficult for me to put in words the feeling I got when I walked through the picturesque, narrow, steep streets of Valparaíso. But Pablo Neruda, Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet, described his home the best – “Valparaíso, what an absurdity you are, how crazy: a crazy port. What a head of dishevelled hills, that you never finished combing. Never did you have time to dress yourself, and always you were surprised by life.” – Pablo Neruda.
Valparaíso is chaotic, unkempt, and raw. With its complicated history, the city has given rise to a creative, free-spirited and alternative generation. Street art now defines Valparaíso, through its political and social expression.
During our walking of the city with Tips4tours, we were informed that street art in Valparaíso, like everywhere else in Chile, is illegal. Before a mural is deemed lawful, permission must first be sought from the owner of the property. However, the Valparaíso community is an anomaly, because they have embraced street art with open arms, even paying international street artists to enhance the aesthetic of their properties. The local government also supports the movement and have commissioned a number of pieces around the city in recent years. Making the city a true hotspot, for the alternative artist.
If you come to Valparaíso, you will be sure to find outstanding pieces of art around every corner. I would suggest you stroll through the narrow streets, and absorb all the city has to offer. However, often when backpacking, we can be short of time, so if you wish to seek out the “more popular” pieces, you will find their locations identified below. Happy exploring:
The piano stairs
The piano stairs are located on a small street called Beethoven, how apt! This wacky creation is infamous in Valparaíso. This piece of art even has its own Facebook page, yet no one really knows who the original painter is. We just have to embrace the mystery I guess. However, during our Tips4tours, we were informed that the locals feel the piano steps are such an integral part of their community, they themselves take turns in repainting the steps when the colour begins to fade. A picture on these stairs is a must.
Ekeko – The Andean God of luck and prosperity
In 2012, internationally acclaimed street artist, Inti Castro, painted a 50-meter long mural on the side of three buildings in Valparaiso. Inti’s mural is placed at a location with no public access. I believe this was done on purpose as a painting of this size most definitely could not be appreciated up close. Ekeko can however be seen in all its glory from a distance, from two points in town; one is Paseo de Atkinson in Concepción Hill the other one is from Cárcel Hill. Take in the views of the port, the hills and this mesmerising creation. It is breath-taking.
This vibrant, life like mural of a joyful little girl is hypnotic. With the dark skin enormous eyes and long hair, she represent a stereotype of Latin American beauty. Painted by the up and coming artist Mr. Papillion, who is known for his portraits of happy people. This painting simply made me smile. It is beautiful and transfers warmth to all of those who pass it. Located in a little passage, Leighton 229 in Cerro Alegre, it is a must if you are feeling homesick or down as it will surely brighten your day.
The sleeping woman
The sleeping woman mural was created by GIOVA, a street artist who apparently only works with rollers and brushes to create stunning pieces. We came across this piece when we were in the search for Cuellimangui and ASJ’s piece of work – the infamous man blowing a smoke cloud of colourful creepy creatures. We found during our walk that this painting had been covered by GIOVA with her sleeping woman. At first I was extremely disappointed, but that is the beauty of street art, isn’t it? The sleeping woman, is soft and feminine. Still quite new and very vibrant, it is located at the top of the Piano stairs.
Representation of Chile
Charquipunk hails from Valparaíso’s neighbouring town of Concón He is known for his imaginative representations of Chile’s native bird – the hummingbird. He also likes to blend Latin American history, religion, economic issues, and other cultural elements into is intriguing pieces. In 2013, he was given the difficult task to paint a long and narrow wall, the canvas he thought was just like Chile itself. Therefore, his mural represents the indigenous people and landscape of northern and southern Chile. I studied this piece of art on three occasions and found new elements at each viewing. It is simply stunning. It is located around the corner from Mr. Papillion.
Tower on Fire
Mr. L is another local Chilean street artist who is highly respected in the street art world. He studied at the famous Escuela de Bellas Artes, located in Viña del Mar. Here he mastered the human form. He is known for his recognisable signature “pink nose” on his characters. We were fortunate enough to have Mr. L – Tower on Fire image visible from our bedroom window in our hostel, “Ecomusic”. This piece gave me my inspiration for this blog, it is outstanding. Located in Paseo Dimalow near Ecomusic at, Dimalow 166.
Solstices and Equinoxes
Un Kolor Distinto collection, is painted by the street artist duo Sammy Espinoza (Jekse) and Cynthia Aguilera (Cinemas). They have recovered and decorated large abandoned structures in the Port of Valparaíso. Known for their theme of man and woman, and how we merge together, their work is extremely eye-catching. We saw several pieces of their work during our tour of the city but the most eye-catching piece was painted on a 15-storey building, on Yungay Street with Morris, an intersection adjacent to the Cardonal Market. This mural is part of a series of four murals that make up the work "Solstices and Equinoxes", project funded by Fondart Regional. Its distinctive colour and loveliness dominates the street.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF VALPARAISO’S STREET ART SCENE AND IF THERE WERE ANY PIECES WHICH YOU THINK SHOULD BE ADDED TO THE COLLECTION OF “MUST SEE MURALS”