Athens Greece Street Art

(Last Updated On: February 5, 2016)

Before arriving in Athens, we heard a lot of about the graffiti that covers the walls of buildings throughout the city center. It can be an overwhelming sight. It’s so dense in some areas that it’s hard to find a small scrap of area on a wall that isn’t completely covered by cacophony of brightly colored graphics with seemingly no relationship to one another.

Athens street covered with graffiti
Athens street covered with graffiti

But scratch below the painted surface and you will find that there is more to the story. One of the things I have come to love about visiting larger cities is discovering the street art. While exploring the city you round a corner and suddenly an enormous mural appears — of such quality that you could easily imagine it hanging in a gallery.

Athens Street Art
Recent addition of more realistic portraits in  the Athens street art scene
Athens Street Art Painted Smile on Sad Face
This street artist added a painted smile to a portrait indicating that there are fewer smiles seen on the street during hard times

Or a small image peeks out from a corner of a building that screams out with emotion.

Athens Street Art -Woman Expressing Disgust for Capitalism
The black and white image circled in angry red lines – no hidden message here.
Athens Street Art Out Stretched Arms Offering Gifts to Above
Outstretched arms offering gifts to above?

Athens has more than its share of such quality works of art throughout the city. Some appear overnight as a gift to the neighborhood, like finding a bouquet of flowers on the doorstep when heading off to work in the morning. We found police taking pictures of themselves in front of this mural of a famous street dog that appeared on the wall a week before our visit.Portrait of Famous Street Dog

 

These examples of Athens Greece street art appeared unexpectedly as we walked up a small neighborhood just below the Acropolis.

Athens Street Art
Unexpected street art on the way up to the Acropolis makes the journey all the more interesting
Athens Street Art Below Acropolis
Athens Greece Street Art

We probably took as many pictures of them as we did of the iconic white washed tiny houses along the way.

White Washed Homes Under Acropolis
Ok, the houses were pretty cool too

We also learned while in Athens that some of the street art murals are now commissioned and/or encouraged by building owners in order to create more interest in their businesses and to improve the appearance of their neighborhoods. The city of Athens has even begun issuing a limited number of permits to artists to paint large murals in areas such as parking structures. This not only beautifies the area, it also covers up angry graffiti depicting anti-government sentiments that sprang up over the city during the economic crisis.

Athens Street Art
Sanctioned street art decorating the exterior of an art gallery
Athens Greece Street Art
Some street art is now encouraged by the city

We also learned that there is a division between the artists who create pictorial images that “communicate something very clearly to anyone” versus those artists whose work is a play on letters that will communicate a message only decipherable to those within the close-knit graffiti community.

1UP graffiti artist logo
A message to other graffiti artists that the famous 1UP crew from Berlin has come through and put their mark on Athens

During a walking tour, conducted by an artist linked to the graffiti community, we were lucky enough to run into one well-known graffiti artists from Athens. The artist, “Senor”, agreed to speak with us, although seemed reluctant at first, acknowledging that the graffiti that he does is illegal by design and definition. He has been a graffiti writer for over 20 years, although within that time he has earned a degree in art and currently earns a living as a sculptor.

Senor very quickly observed that clearly those of us on a walking tour would have no real understanding what graffiti really was. He waved his hand dismissively at a huge mural on the opposite wall, saying “That is not graffiti, it is what you call street art, a name that has nothing to do with graffiti.”

Athens Street Art
Image dismissed by Athens Graffiti Artist as too mainstream

“Anyone can look at that and know what it is.” This in his mind seemed to be a sad development in the graffiti community, that some had “sold out” and were getting paid to decorate the neighborhood rather than expressing their defiance and separateness from the mainstream.

Athens Graffiti Art
Massive Mural Completed By Senor in 4 hours

When asked why he continued to create graffiti Senor admitted that he had thought a lot about this, and realized that he did it in order to retain a connection to his youth. Growing up and needing to pay the bills doesn’t hold a great deal of appeal for any of us – so we have that in common too.

The more time we spent in Athens, talking to the people who live here, the more we found that Athenians embrace everything about their culture, present and past. Everything here is presented unapologetically.

Evzone
Evzone – Greek National Guard Embracing Tradition

When the Greeks dance, they do so with gusto, when they march, they kick higher and wear their pom-pomed shoes with pride. And while not all of the art on its streets are appreciated by all, it is still there to be seen and, in my opinion not to be missed.

Disclaimer:  Thank you to DOPIOS who provided this STREET ART TOUR complimentarily as part of our participation in TBEX Athens. All of our opinions are our own.

21 thoughts on “Athens Greece Street Art”

  1. In the short time you’ve been in Athens you have delve deep into the culture. in this article on street art I no only see the art, but I feel the people. That is the differance between a Tourist and a traveler. You two are travelers.

    • So touched by your comment! I really enjoyed putting together this piece and I’m glad we were able to spend more time here to get to know Athens below the surface. Much more rewarding for us too.

  2. There were some wonderful photo opps on this tour weren’t there? Then everywhere I went I kept seeing more and more graffiti everywhere. Senor was a ‘character’ certainly.

  3. Love your images, your description of the tour and what street art means to Arhenians. You understand it well. No wonder this was a booked out TBEX event. Athens has a proliferation of ugly graffiti. It’s hardly surprising that street art is controversial. But I like it a lot.

  4. I’m so impressed from your beautiful photos. Graffiti’s are part of our everyday life in Athens!
    We love to have travellers like you!

    Best

  5. Jen, thank you for sharing the street art of Athens – it looks amazing! It is also interesting to hear the difference between street art and graffiti – I think a combination of both provides a great experience for visitors and you never know what will be around the next corner…

  6. I haven’t been to Greece so it’s nice to see a part of it through your post! You’ve definitely found some great street art and it’s indeed, refreshing, to see this other side of Athens

  7. When I think of Athens, street art doesn’t necessarily come to mind. I didn’t realize it was such a big thing there. That’s why I love reading fellow bloggers’ posts. I learn so much about this wonderful world we live in! Thanks for the info, and if you’re ever in Miami, stop by Wynwood. They have some pretty cool street art too that I think you’d enjoy.

  8. Wow! I had no idea there was so much street art in Athens. I think I am going to have to add this to my bucket list (seeing the street art). Athens is already on my list, but for historical reasons. Now, I may need to change it up a bit. How neat! Some of the pieces you’ve displayed are absolutely stunning.

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