Tag Archives: art

Discovering Soho: Malaga’s Barrio de las Artes

It’s hard not to notice the enticing urban art in the distance as you cross Puente Tetuán in Málaga’s Alameda bario. A tall apartment block, adorned with two, large colourful prints – one of a woman in a meditative-like pose, the other of a comic book style fighter jet pilot with an apparent grudge held against ‘d-dogs’ – demands your attention.

This is Soho, Málaga’s decorative and triangular-shaped ‘Barrio de las Artes‘, saying hello.

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga

Most of the street art found in Soho has been around a few years, but the giant prints are relatively new additions, having been installed after the announcement of their high-proflie creators’ involvement at Málaga’s Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC) earlier this year.

The men concerned are Shepard Fairey and D*face, who might be considered something of a coup for the CAC, given that the former is the engineer behind the now internationally known ‘obey giant‘ campaign, and the latter arguably contemporary art’s fastest rising talent, but others would doubtless argue that the stature of the CAC is such that it ought to be exhibiting artists of such quality and renown.

The CAC is surrounded by colourful, eye-catching urban art, from the adjacent river banks to nearby shop shutters and walls re-defined as blank canvases, but the CAC’s exterior is surprisingly plain and inconspicuous. As you approach, there is an awkward-looking statue erected outside the entrance, and a sign proclaiming where you are, but there is little else to suggest what fine examples of brilliantly conceived pop-art lie within.

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga

Inside, the colour comes gushing back into view. A giant, rainbow-hued scribble here and a gaudy neon-pink light there; the place screams novelty and bohemianism, or insufferable pretentiousness, depending on your personal idea of what constitutes ‘art’.

For me, this is ‘art’ at its best.

On the left, beyond a quietly disturbing framed photo depicting violence and chaos, is the temporary installation room. Its current occupants are 12 monumental, bronze-sculpted animal heads on poles, each depicting a different sign of the Zodiac, and all assiduously carved by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, ai weiwei, animal heads

In the main gallery, the work of US urban artist Shepard Fairey is copiously displayed to mesmerizing effect. His wide collection of stencil and sticker-based creations make up the Your Eyes Here exhibition – his first in Spain.

Through the use of reverse psychology, he aims to encourage viewers to analyse and discover the meaning of his famous, reinterpreted images in a way that goes beneath the surface. His themes include music, politics and playful irony and outputs from his earlier days as an artist.

For more of Fairey and his Obey Giant campaign, check out his site.

Image Credit: CAC Málaga
Image Credit: CAC Málaga

The star of the show, though, is the aptly named D*face, whose ‘life, fame and death’-themed work forms Wasted Youth – his first solo exhibition in Spain. Huge comic book illustrations dominate much of the wall space, but D*face goes about his best work by taking iconic portraits and transmogrifying them into exquisitely horrible masterpieces. In other words, he defaces them.

We’re talking skeletal Queen Elizabeths, half-dead Marilyn Monroes and flesh-eating Che Guevaras here – all neatly arranged in straight lines on bare white walls, as though you’ve stumbled into Dr. Frankenstein’s hall of fame, if the madman had had access to a celebrity graveyard. Some of the handiwork seen in the 8 Queen Lizzy II compositions is particularly outstanding – subtle rips, scratches and scuffs reveal a layer of skull and bone beneath the surface and create an absurd, undead depiction of her majesty, who I’m sure would see the funny side.

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, the queen, d-face

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, d-face. the queen

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, d-face, che guevara

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, marilyn monroe, d-face

Dean Martin, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Sid Vicious also feature, looking ready to munch through the nearest brains they can find, and a black-ink, menacing Jim Morrison appears on an old, graffiti-covered school desk amidst a chaotic jumble of sketches and mockups that offer viewers an insight into the Londoner’s mind.

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, d-face

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, d-face, jim morrison

And it doesn’t stop there. Beside the ‘d*faced’ portraits is a giant skeleton, which appears to have just smashed his way through a tiny closet after having spent a long time being locked away. The message of the laborious feature is unclear until you read the title: ‘We’ve all got them’.

For more of D*face check out his site.

cac malaga, contemporary art museum, soho malaga, skeleton, d-face

The CAC is undoubtedly the highlight of Málaga’s Soho barrio, but there are plenty more examples of impressive and creative street art lurking nearby: a guitar-wielding Jimi Hendrix on the shutters of a music store, for instance, and a shadowed figure applying multicoloured paint to sealed doorways.

There was a time, probably not so long ago, when Malaga was widely regarded, among tourists at least, as relatively unexciting; little more than a gateway to a breadth of swankier, neighbouring resorts on the Costa del Sol.

However, with the development of the Soho area and various other cutting-edge museums around the city, Málaga has clearly – and successfully – managed to reinvent itself over the last few years, and can certainly no longer be perceived in such a way.

The CAC, El Museo Picasso, the Automobile Museum, the elaborate Wine Museum and the multihued, cube-ornamented Pompidou Centre are all shining examples of cultural prestige and innovation, and are helping Málaga – a city once considered fundamentally dull and unspectacular – attain rock star status in the arts world.

For a detailed and labeled map of Málaga’s Soho Barrio, head over to sohomlg.com.

Valencia: Modernity over Antiquity

Years ago, when I first had the idea of moving to Spain, I set my sights on Valencia. I’ve no idea why– I was just drawn there for no apparent reason. Perhaps it had something to do with a video I’d seen of La Tomatina, or a microwavable paella from Sainsbury’s that I’d bought and lovingly devoured on numerous occasions. In any case, I ended up in Cádiz, and quickly forgot about any irrational fixation I’d had with Valencia.

Since moving to Granada– a few hundred kilometres closer than Cádiz –the thought had restored itself, often surfacing each time one of our beloved puentes came around and, with that, the prospect of wandering and discovering yet another Spanish city.

Earlier this month I decided I’d waited long enough, so off we went– me and the one who we shall from herein call ‘E’.

valencia, map, spain

What struck me almost immediately about Valencia was how distinctly more contemporary it is than what I’m used to in Andalucía. I’d had the same realisation in Lisbon, the previous month, and left feeling as unexcited about Granada as I’d ever been, despite its numerable assets. Flanking Valencia’s city centre are the Jardines de Turia– a long stretch of green (formerly a river bed) littered with ponds, bridges, sculptures, sunbathers and drunken yet surprisingly talented buskers. We don’t get much grass in Andalucía, so it was lovely, if not a little strange, to be surrounded by so much of it.

The Turia Gardens lead to the resplendent Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias– a quite breathtaking assembly of ambitious, alien spacecraft resembling architecture. I doubt there is a better contrast to Spain’s overwhelmingly traditional demeanour– there’s El Parasol in Seville and Bilbao’s Guggenheim but neither reach the immensity of Valencia’s city of art and science in my opinion.

The exterior will keep you gawking all day long, unless you are distracted by one of the many enterprises on offer within the city. Ever fancied a go at zorbing? Or kayaking, perhaps? Thanks to the moat-like turquoise water that filters through the site, activities like these are perfectly possible. And they look like fun! Though I’m not really sure I fully understand the purpose of zorbing just yet. For information on prices, opening hours etc, visit the City of Art and Science website.


It is possible to spend the entire day at the City of Art and Science, given that it is divided into six parts: The Hemisféric, The Science Museum, Oceanográfic Aquarium, Palau de Arts, The Umbracle and The Ágora. All offer something different, in the name of of modern art and science. We chose to see the Oceanográfic– Europe’s second largest Aquarium –and The Hemisféric– an enormous IMAX dome that shows visually thrilling documentaries all day long.

We spent almost half our time in the Oceanográfic watching Dolphins obediently jump and splash about in a 24 million-litre and 10.5m deep tank. For this we were later berated by friends in Granada, since, according to them at least, all dolphins held in captive pertain in some way to the baiting and mass-slaughtering of dolphins in East Asia. I’m not sure I agree, given how the Atlantic has its own multitude of bottlenose dolphins. The aquarium also appears to be actively involved in the prevention of ‘finning’, a process whereby sharks’ fins are hacked off to make soup while the rest of them is thrown back into the sea where they will drown or be eaten alive, so I struggle to believe that there would be any dark dealings going on behind the scenes.

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The Hemisféric provided me with my first ever experience of an IMAX cinema. Until then I had found it difficult to imagine exactly what would happen, and how it would differ to regular 3D cinema screenings. There was an X-Man style headset, which was ultimately a bit of a letdown since all it did was provide sound via one headphone– E’s didn’t work at all –but the visuals were incredible, purely just for how gigantic everything was.

valencia, art, science, spain, contemporary, modern, science city
L’Hemisfèric, Valencia

Valencia’s city centre bears more of a resemblance to the usual landmarks in any given Spanish city; the Plaza de Ayuntamiento is its focal point, and the cathedral plus several other intricately carved buildings– including La Lonja de Seda, a 15th century silk exchange –are all within walking distance. Beyond that though, is the happening barrio of El Carmen. This is where Valencia comes alive at night, as we were later to discover, but I was far more interested in another draw: street art (surprise).

Yes, by now you might have noted my growing fascination with street art, especially if you are a reader of my other blog, where I write about and post photos of it regularly. Prior to my inevitable and directionless DIY tour of El Carmen’s backstreets, on which E was remarkably patient I must say, I had contacted fellow Spain and Valencia-based blogger Zach, of Not Hemmingway’s Spain, who, given his superior knowledge, was kind enough to give me some idea of where to look. That was a good starting point, but naturally I was lost within minutes, and probably gave up on the map a little too easily. Along my way, I encountered several pieces of seriously impressive street art, including this masterstroke from DEIH, who I featured in a recent post on some of my favourite street artists.

valencia, art, science, spain, contemporary, modern, graffiti, deih
Work of DEIH, Valenciano Street Artist

There are evidently many artists defined by their own individual styles at work in Valencia. One image that we saw on virtually every corner was the sneaky ninja man, whose creator I cannot find on Google. El Carmen is bursting with fantastic street art, adding yet more of the modern touch to an already unconventional Spanish city.


If I keep visiting cities like Valencia and Lisbon I fear I may end up falling out of love with Granada;  its awesomeness in the traditional sense (and the close proximity of the Sierra Nevada) has always quietly atoned for a general lack of newfangledness, but now I’m not so sure. I want to stay in Spain– that I am at least sure of. It’s certainly time for a change though.

Have you been to Valencia? Do you live there? What impressed you about the city?

CBBH Photo Challenge: Street Art

For months now, I’ve been meaning to get involved with Marianne’s (of East Of Malaga) monthly photo challenge. I suppose I hadn’t until today because I don’t really fancy myself as a great photographer. I take pictures of what I like, edit them, stick a few in a blog post slideshow and that’s about it. My thought process rarely extends beyond that. This month’s theme though – ‘Street Art’ – got me interested. I mean, how couldn’t I participate, given that we in Granada are fortuitous enough to have El Niño de las Pinturas among us. This guy has been smearing Granada’s dull, lifeless walls with his vivid and magnetising imagination for 20 years now. Exactly 20 years, in fact; a documentary about him was made and premiered last weekend in a local realejo bar (my neck of the woods). He has daubed countless pieces in that time, and to choose my two favourites has been virtually impossible! So I chose four instead. Is that cheating? Marianne? In any case, I absolutely adore the style and depth in all of them, and particularly the interpretation in the one of the giraffe. For a look at other examples of his work see my original post here.

el nino de las pinturas, el niño de las pinturas, graffiti, granada, spain, españa
‘Cansao de no encontrar respuesta, decidí cambiar mis preguntas’ (Tired of not finding an answer, I decided to change my questions)
el nino de las pinturas, el niño de las pinturas, graffiti, granada, spain, españa, violin
La Violinista joven
el nino de las pinturas, el niño de las pinturas, graffiti, granada, spain, españa, girafe
El Girafe
el nino de las pinturas, el niño de las pinturas, graffiti, granada, spain, españa, violin
La Violinista mayor

But the CBBH Photo Challenge is more than just an opportunity to show off your camera skills; it is a blog hop as well. The first ‘C’ and ‘B’, after all, do stand for conejo blanco (white rabbit). So each post posted in response to Marianne’s original post must include two links to two other blogs that the blogger has visited and commented on in the last month, so that his/her readers can ‘hop’ over to some unchartered corner of the frankly enormous blogosphere. It’ all about helping each other out you see. And we’re good at that in Spain.

So I will take this opportunity to direct you to Clare of Need Another Holiday. Clare’s blog, much like my own, new blog, focuses on part-time travel, as opposed to those that celebrate a nomadic and often vagrant existence. She has been all over. But mostly Greece. She absolutely loves Greece.

Secondly, I’d like to shout out to a blogger who has really wowed me with her vlog series recently. Jess, of HolaYessica!, blogs about Barcelona and various Spanish escapades. Her output rate is frankly unbelievable and her style and writing standards never falter. She’s also – fittingly – excellent with a camera. So go and say hi, and tell her that I sent you!

If you want to take part in the CBBH Photo Challenge, just head over to Marianne’s blog and read on. It’s fun and gives you a chance to share those pics that deserve to be seen!

Granada got Google doodled

I’m still unsure as to whether it was only us who saw it – i.e. might it have just been an IP address thing, or something – or, if on Sunday morning millions of other web users woke up to the Google doodle of Granada adorning the Google homepage.

I’d love to hear from you if you live on the other side of the world and you saw it. It would settle a bet or two put it that way.

The image showed Granada’s resplendent Alhambra Palace perched atop the city’s winding and historical labyrinth barrio, The Albaícin, whose streets were formed to depict the famous search engine’s letters. While technically this is not an accurate representation of Granada’s actual layout, it did manage to include what are perhaps the two most prominent features of the city, and in some style.

google doodle granada, granada, spain

The doodle was displayed in celebration of the creation of ‘El Reino de Granada’ a thousand years ago. June 16, 1013, according to the history books, was the official date that Granada was founded by one Abu Mozni Zawi Ibn Zeire Ibn Balkin al-Zanhegi of the Zirid dynasty.

What an absolute belter of a name that is. I’d love to go around saying I was of the Taylor dynasty, or that I’ve got five ‘Z’s in my name. My mum always used to call me by my full name when she got cross with me. I wonder if his did the same. Must have been a right mouthful. And his signature must have been ridiculous. But hey, at least he didn’t have to write it on forms an infinite amount of times in Spanish governmental offices.

Anyway, despite the anniversary being on Sunday, no celebrations actually took place in the city. WHAT!? An occasion as momentous as this and there was no fiesta to commemorate it?

Relax. We operate on Spanish time here remember? The celebrations will in fact commence this Thursday, with live concerts and various educative exhibitions happening all over the city, and all the usual street parades thrown in as well.

The celebration – named ‘Milenio en las calles’ is scheduled to carry on through the summer with further live events in some of the city’s most emblematic milieus, and will complement the staggered ’13 del 13’ events program – thirteen separate cultural events that have been in the works since January. Should be good.

Graffiti in Granada, and why it should stay…

Last year I posted about Granadino graffiti artist El Niño de las Pinturas. He’s something of a local hero round here, owing to his trademark and instantly recognisable style that adorns the city’s walls, particularly in my bario, El Realejo.

Each piece I have seen is extraordinarily well done, and I insist on taking any friends on a tour of his works each time I am visited. Neither they nor anybody I’ve met here in Granada has ever had a bad word to say about the mystery man’s cultured contributions. Often he is invited by local businesses to come and jazz up their dull and colourless walls, and a couple of the local museums in town even feature him in their brochures. It gives Granada an urban edge that it would otherwise lack.

So it came as a shock when I happened to walk by one of my favourite pieces near the infamous, el niño-fied house, to find that it had  been scrubbed away. Well, nearly anyway. Whoever had been assigned the task hadn’t done a very good job of it; there was still half of it left, as if to suggest that the design had been defiled out of pure spite.

el niño de las pinturas, el niño, granada, art, graffiti, josh taylor
Las Caras, back in October
el niño de las pinturas, el niño, granada, art, graffiti, josh taylor
…and now

What is the point?

Fair enough, at the end of the day these walls are somebody else’s property, and el niño, among other urban artists (some of whose works are admittedly a lot uglier in comparison) probably don’t have permission to use them. But what’s done is done, and as a matter of fact they (el niño’s contributions at least) actually brighten the place up, and bring an extra element to Granada’s cultural side.

I desperately hope that this isn’t the start of a mass graffiti-ridding project. There’s good graffiti and there’s bad graffiti, and el niño de las pinturas is unquestionably of the former sort.

6 Reasons to go to Dragon Festival in Santa Fe, Spain

Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia

It might be raining outside, but that won’t be stopping festival-starved merrymakers the nation over from flocking to what has arguably become Spain’s most legendary free rave, Dragon Fest, this weekend. The shindig will be held in Santa Fe, Andalucía for the third year running, after floods in its original homeland of Orgíva – a quiet, hippie town which can be read all about at all about at con jamón spain – caused irreparable damage in 2010.

The principle of Dragon is simple. Turn up, armed with booze, food, some sturdy footwear, a pair of trunks and a full-blown appetite for pounding pounding techno music, and run wild and free for however long you may wish to do so. It’s all in the spirit of spontaneity and good fun – free, good fun, might I add – something that is hard to come by these days.

I attended 2012’s event, and had an absolute blast. Here’s why:

  • Just in case you missed it, I’ll say it again: It’s free! No entry fee, no pitching charges and no moneygrubbing commercial stalls. It’s completely non-profit, and you can stay for as long as you want (that’s not to say that everything is free, however, so bring plenty of cash, food and water if you do go).
  • The music is surprisingly good, given that none of the participating DJs are paid for their efforts. It does tend to tilt primarily toward psychedelic trance, or ‘gabber’ as it is affectionately known, though if this gets a bit much (it can easily happen) then other dance genres and random/improvised/often quite drunk bands can be found just about anywhere.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Santa Fe
  • Its location is miles away from anywhere – perfect for a festival of Dragon’s nature. In order to reach it, if a car isn’t to hand, a bus must first be taken to local town Santa Fe, from where festivalgoers hoof it the rest of the way. While a two hour or so walk along a wide-open, dusty road in the middle of the day may not be the most appealing of thoughts, the prospect of reaching your ever-nearing, hippie-humming oasis drives you on with the utmost determination. Once you finally reach the finish line, it soon becomes clear just why it was such a good idea to come. My arrival beer last year – a no frills Día special – was possibly my best ever. Gone in seconds, but never forgotten.
  • There’s a hot springs. Yes, you read it right! Last year I spent an entire afternoon steadily recovering from a grueling hangover by this gently bubbling tarn. I was joined by many others, some clothed and some not so clothed. It was great fun, not too crowded and with the weather on our side made for an unforgettable day. Though I wouldn’t recommend coming if the sight of dense foliage and swinging manbits easily upsets you. This is a proper hippie festival.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe
  • The food is amazing, and extraordinarily cheap. Last year, there seemed to be endless supplies of fresh paellas, curries and other, miscellaneous home-baked (or campervan-baked, rather) food being flogged like it was going out of fashion. All of them delicious. Fortunately, ‘fashion’ is a senseless and decidedly ridiculous concept at Dragon so we had no problem devouring as much of it as humanly possible.
  • Go for the people. There is no trouble, heavy-handed security or any (well, hardly any) of the usual loutish idiots you find at most British festivals; just a bunch of peaceful, chatty and very friendly people looking to enjoy themselves under a (fingers crossed) bright, blue Andalucían sky.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe

Dragon has by no means lived a trouble-free life since its conception in 1997, and was looking slightly done for following a Guardia Civil led offensive on the alleged ‘organisers’ of the event back in 2009. More on that next week though – wouldn’t want this post to, ha, ‘drag on’ now would I eh?

Ahem. Hopefully see one or two of you there. Thanks for reading. J

* Click here to read my article on Dragon Fest published with Clash Magazine :)

Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe