Why Rio de Janeiro Is The Ultimate Street Art Destination
From the streets to the sand
Rio de Janeiro has a long history of encouraging street art, culminating in its legalization in 2009. Since then this vibrant art scene has exploded with artists from all across Brazil flocking to the spectacular city to leave their own individual imprint on Rio’s unique canvas.
From beautiful beaches to sprawling favelas to towering mountains, there isn’t a part of the city which hasn’t been touched by the artistic expression of its residents and exploring Rio it’s obvious to see why it has become such an epicentre for street art in Brazil.
Arriving in the city, it’s immediately obvious that there really is no other place on earth like Rio and this unique landscape provides the perfect backdrop for the city’s artwork.
From the lushly forested mountains surrounding the city to the 35 metre Christ the Redeemer art deco statue gazing down upon Rio’s golden beaches, it’s pretty hard to imagine a more inspiring location when creating incredible street art.
While the steep mountains and glorious beaches frame this picture perfect view, the individual artists really bring the street art scene to life in Rio.
With a wide variety of styles and influences on display, there’s little uniformity within the Rio street art scene as highlighted here by four of its leading figures in Caze, Marcelo Ment, Carlos Bobi and Lidi Viber.
Exhibiting their latest work on the famed Selaron Steps, where they each displayed their own homage to a UFC fighter in the recent run-up to UFC 237 in Rio. City residents who took pictures with the art were subsequently offered the chance to attend UFC 237 at Rio’s Olympic Area as VIP's by the new UFC brand partner PokerStars.
Considered one of the most influential artists within the Rio street art scene, famed Rio local Marcelo Ment created a mural of legendary Brazilian martial artist Anderson 'The Spider' Silva, displaying his trademark mix of expressionism and realism.
Marcelo Ment is one of a small number of local street artists to have found international acclaim for his work, with his vibrant depictions of feminine figures propelling Rio’s street art scene onto the world stage.
In an art scene traditionally dominated by male influences, street artist Lidia Viber creates street art with the aim of encouraging women to express themselves and on this theme, she created a mural to former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas.
Growing up in a mining town north of Rio, she taught herself how to paint using both sprays and brushes at the age of 15 and her work has now been celebrated in multiple exhibitions displaying what she describes as ‘young, sensitive, vulnerable characters with feelings’.
Recently commissioned by local authorities to transform one of Rio’s main hospitals with her colourful and unique style, Lidia continues to drive female participation in the street art scene as her fame grows.
Rio’s famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema are not only the perfect place to soak up the rays, sample a Caipirinha (Brazil's national cocktail) and play some volleyball, you can also witness some stunning artwork as even on the beaches local artists have made their mark.
Seen here perfecting his latest creation on Copacabana beach, a piece he was commissioned to create by PokerStars in celebration of the recent UFC 237 event in Rio, is local artist Rogean Rodrigues who was born and raised in a Rio favela and is now celebrated across Latin America for his talent.
Rio is a diverse melting pot of Brazilian culture and heritage, with its citizens, the Cariocas, world-renowned for their annual Carnaval celebration.
Their shared love of music, dance and vivid colours is epitomized each year in the explosion of culture that is Carnaval and it’s this party spirit that fosters the perfect environment for a vibrant street art scene.
In recognition of the diversity of culture that defines Rio and in celebration of Brazil’s hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games, internationally revered Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra created the largest street art mural in the world, a mammoth 32,300 square foot mural along Rio’s Olympic Boulevard entitled Todos Somos Um (We Are One).
Arguably the most famous Brazilian street artist in the world, his kaleidoscope themed work now adorns the walls of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Moscow.
It’s often said that music is the lifeblood of Rio and providing the perfect soundtrack for the city’s street art scene is a diverse mix of musical traditions which reflects the varied makeup of Rio’s Cariocas.
The sound that drives Rio more than any other is that of Samba. Synonymous with Carnaval, Samba has become an international symbol of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro’s culture. While Samba’s roots lie in Africa, the genre was developed in Rio and it is Rio’s energetic Samba scene which has propelled the sound onto the world stage.
No trip to Rio would be complete without a visit to one of the famed Samba bars in Lapa, the heart of the Samba scene, where weekly street parties and nightly music hall events celebrate Rio’s musical soul.
by Joe Sawyer