Athens – An Aesthetic of Ugliness

Are you planning a trip to Athens and hoping to see some street art and graffiti?
This post is directed at you.

Athens is a city that is chaotic, wild, magnificent, dirty, gorgeous, impoverished, historical, desperate, and aesthetically flat (the city’s highest structure is merely 10 floors high).

Similar to New York, Berlin, and Amsterdam, Athens’ graffiti culture arose as a way of expressing social and/or political discontent. At the turn of the millennium, thousands of migrants used Greece as a sanctuary and entry point into Europe. The growth of the country’s impoverished population in only a few short years seriously upset the country’s delicate social and economic equilibrium. As a result, many individuals took to the streets to express their views and frustrations through spray paint protests, which could be seen all across the city.

In 2008, after the economic crisis in Greece peaked, graffiti began appearing throughout Athens in the name of freedom of expression, filling all of the alleys with messages of pain and despair. In order to lessen the amount of graffiti space that may be vandalized, officials started commissioning works of art from local artists. The goal was to lessen the prevalence of graffiti tagging and, if possible, to transform the problem into an advantage by promoting the areas most heavily impacted by graffiti as centers of artistic expression, making them destinations for art and culture.

Similar to the streets and historic buildings of Tel Aviv’s Florentin district, the architecture in most Athens neighborhoods is dilapidated. The walls, signs, objects, and streets of every district in Athens are covered in graffiti – containing tags and slogans. In fact, it would be challenging to find a spot inside the city that has not been subjected to spray painting sometime over the previous two decades.

As a cultural hub, Athens is often regarded as a major center for street art and graffiti. An energetic and exciting street art movement coexists with the remnants of an old civilization. As a result, there are many massive murals with millions of graffiti tags woven into them, leading to the integration of historic buildings with the contemporary urban landscape. Poor and desolate areas plagued by drug and sex crimes next to upscale retail complexes selling expensive foreign labels and visited by tourists. Architectural neglect and emptiness are at the foothills of magnificent historical landmarks.

This post will brief you on the best places to take a walk in Athens if you want to experience the city’s genuine local feel while taking in the fantastic works of some of the best Greek and international graffiti artists.

Indeed, the term “graffiti” itself has its origins in ancient Greek, suggesting that the art form may be as least as old as the city of Athens itself. However, the majority of Athens’ graffiti over the last two decades has been produced by hopeless youth whose autographs can be seen all over the city as a plea for assistance to a city/state that pays them no mind.

The community of local and international graffiti artists who paint in the city, give color to its walls, tell a narrative, and present a more hopeful and colorful message is rising in tandem with these desperate youths. Throughout the districts of Athens, you will come across scores of magnificent murals painted on whole buildings.

Plaka, Gazi, Monastiraki, Exarcheia, Agios Ioannis Rentis, Anafiotika, and the walls along the Piraeus metro line are the best places to see street art and graffiti in Athens. The neighborhoods of Exarchia, Monastiraki, Psyri, Anafiotika, Gazi, Neos Kosmos, Omonia, Exarhia, and Rentis are also areas to experience Greek street art


This post is part of a dedicated series of 3 posts on street art  in Athens

List of street artists participating in the series of 3 posts: Graffiti and street art in Athens: Ino, Rtmone, Fikos, Oré, Alexandros Vasmoulakis, Woozy, Kez, Sonke
WD (Wild Drawings), Dimitris Taxis, SimpleG, Alex Martinez, Insane51, Sonke,, Stmts, Gonzalo Borondo, Simoni Fontana, Pavlos Tsankonas, Loukanikos

About me

My name is a Dror Hadadi and I have always loved and been attracted to the subversion art of graffiti. The urban art, which takes place in the public space 24/7, captivates my heart.

In my view, graffiti, is a free entry ticket to a global exhibition that is constantly changing, growing and evolving.

The graffiti creates and drives an artistic dialogue between the viewer, the architecture and the urban life. Sometimes graffiti disrupts, hurts,
and shatters its presence on the wall. Sometimes it brings the public wall to life, allowing us a colorful and exciting glimpse into the graffiti artist's private world – and our own world as viewers.
In both cases, instant communication and dialogue is created between the viewer and the message left for him on the wall.
The graffiti, due to its presence in the urban-public space, engages in dialogue with us on a daily basis, enabling us to communicate with the space near us, which serves as decor for our living and urban environment.


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