Not all good art is in museums. A stroll through Lisbon’s hilly streets quickly reveals an art scene as vibrant and exciting as any we have seen anywhere. It begins with the visual feast of colorful azulejo tiles that decorate walls and, underfoot, the Calçada Portuguesa, the mosaic stone pavements. Both of these art forms are distinctly embedded in the country’s cultural heritage. However, in Lisbon one can also experience the contemporary open-air museum of truly exceptional street art.
Although the origins of street art is rooted in rebellion, today, one can’t freely paint wherever and whenever one wants. Permission from the city council is needed to decide whether or not it is worthy for the city’s aesthetics. If you get caught painting in the city without authorization, there can be fines or even jail.
For as much as we were able to see, we know that there were literally hundreds if not thousands of murals we never saw. There are even street art tours and apps to help you find the best, biggest, and most dramatic art.
Yes, there is a lot of graffiti, and for most people, the words “graffiti” and “street art” are interchangeable. Since street art evolved from graffiti, there are noticeable similarities and differences. There are differences in style and purpose, and one is often vandalism, and the other sanctioned. But both are on a continuum and there is no fine line to separate one from the other.
As always, its value is in the eye of the beholder.
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