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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Street Art at Middle Age

It seems to us graffiti is now middle-aged. In other words, it’s comfortably in the mainstream of art and has been for some time. Coffee table books have been published about it, some of the artists fetch 6-figure prices for their works, and mainstream museums hold shows. One can question if this, then, is real graffiti (see note below), but in the meantime we’ll just enjoy it.

As we did this past week when the Rome community of Garbatella hosted an opening of the work of several well-known Roman and French graffiti artists, artists that were in essence commissioned to do works several stories high in several cases or several buildings long in another.

The works ranged from Sten & Lex’s stencil art of Rome soccer star Francesco Totti (the “star” deserves a footnote – see below) mixed with the Rome she-wolf symbol, to wallpaper-like (and we don’t mean that derogatorily) Mideastern designs of Fefe. Our friend Jessica Stewart of Rome Photo Blog ( is as entranced with this work as we, and she’s a wonderfully gifted photographer. So we recommend you click onto her site for a closer look at this exhibit. Jessica, who was around for much of the mounting of these works, explained how some of them were done in a post to me (see second note below) - fascinating!

Garbatella is a perfect place to mount these works, we think, because it is a tight, leftist community that supports anti-authoritarian activities. The works will be up as long as the weather permits. Because of the rain, some of the paper already is peeling; so get there soon. The works are all on the walls of the block enclosed by via Caffaro, via Persico and via Adorno. Your best starting point is where via Caffaro and via Adorno meet. There you can also see JB Rock’s Mamma Roma, a portion of which is visible in the photo above.

And there is an ending party, with more graffiti art, in the Ostiense locale of the now defunct Rome wholesale markets, on June 15 at 6 p.m. (via dei Magazzini Generali). For those who follow the “Let’s ‘Chattare’” blogs here, you’ll appreciate this ending party is billed as a “Finissage” – which is taking the French word, vernissage, used frequently here in Rome to describe opening parties, and, well, bending a bit. I must admit I kind of like the new bastardized word.

Which brings us to our notes. Note #1: Is it graffiti if it’s in an authorized place, sponsored by, among others, the city and province, and kicked off like any other art opening (the opening was in the large restored 1930s Palladium; photo). See our blog that includes our talk with Maria Teresa Natale, Oct. 27, 2009

Note #2: from Jessica Stewart "Sten and Lex handpainted every panel that they put up. They told me that it took them a little over a month to do it all. JB Rock's was printed and then he painted over it once it was stuck on the wall (filling in the hair and shading). C215 and L'Atlas also had theirs printed. I think Sten and Lex are pretty unique in actually having the patience and perseverance to handpaint something so large. The paper they work on is so thin that you couldn't print on it. "

And, finally, we have to note that iconic soccer player Totti –passionate but also known as a good sport - intentionally kicked an Inter player very late in a frustrating– for Totti and Roma fans - Italian cup game last week. His unsportsmanlike act – “the big kick” – caused national hand-wringing, an outpouring of emotions and questioning of national values, hyped as only Italians can do it. So would Sten & Lex have used Totti in their piece if they had known about his unsportsmanlike conduct before they started drawing?

You can try the website for this graffiti project - in English, but it didn’t work for me. And there's a video in Italian and French at


Jessica said...

Hi Diane....great post! Sorry I missed you guys at the opening. The proper link for the website in English is:

Unknown said...

All of the artists were invited by NUfactory cultural association ( which produced and organized the whole exhibition.