Best street art spots in Rio de Janeiro

Fabio Jardelino | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Rio de Janeiro is an incredibly multicultural city, very dense in all kinds of arts and cultural movements. As one of the capitals of Brazil during the Portuguese colonization, Rio has always been the host of the culture in the country since the beginning. It was in Rio that a large part of the cultural scene of the 20th century developed, but also its underground culture took shape here and reached high paradigms at the world's scale. So, if you like street art, check out this article and get to know the best spots to enjoy this underground culture in Rio de Janeiro.

Mural Etnias, the biggest graffiti in the world

Recently, the city took an important step to spread urban art in the country, following a path to be on top of the world. It is not by chance that the city figures in the Guinness Book as the host of the biggest graffiti in the world since 2016. The 'Mural Etnias', also know as 'Todos Somos um' (or, 'We are all one'), was painted by the Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra on the facade of an old warehouse for the Olympics that happened in Rio. Kobra is a famous artist, with several panels in the European countries and the USA, with more than 10 open exhibitions across the country. 

© Kobra website /unknown author

Located at the port zone of the Gamboa neighborhood, at the city center, the panel stands stunning 15 meters high with 170 meters long. Together with Christ the Redeemer, it is one of the biggest wonders in this amazing city. The main theme of the 'Mural das Etnias' is the union of the peoples and the diversity of the ethnic groups of the five continents. There are five images, each one representing a tribe from one continent: Starting with the Huli people from New Guinea (Oceania), then the Mursi from Ethiopia (Africa), the  Karen from Myanmar and Thailand (Asia), the Sámi from Lapland (Europe), and finally the Tapajós from Brazil (America).

For you to understand how big this graffiti is, keep in mind that the artist used 180 buckets of acrylic paint, 2,800 spray cans, and 7 hydraulic elevators. Pretty cool, right?  Because of its size, the panel, with an area of ​​approximately 2,600 m², was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest graffiti in the world.

By the way, if you take the time to see this amazing artwork, do not miss the opportunity to visit the 'Museu do Amanhã', located not too far from the panel. It is a whole place dedicated to modern art, designed by Santiago Calatrava. He is worldwide famous for his long columns and iron structures that challenge the laws of physics - or at least, this is the feeling you have when you visit his buildings. 

Scratching the Surface 

Another worldwide famous artist that left his mark in Rio is the Portuguese Vhils, with at least 12 sculptures left on walls around the city since 2013. The artist is well-known in the art scene for his 'Scratching the Surface' technique, which allows him to make faces of popular citizens of the region where he works without using the paint. Instead, he is scratching the walls to form the figure. The most iconic for you to visit while walking around Rio is “Descascando a Superfície”, made at the wall of the Museum of Arte of Rio.  

© Vhils official website / Alexander Silva

By the way, the Museum of Art of Rio is also located at the Port Zone of Gamboa, completing a perfect cultural day trip if you are looking for that on your way there. The museum was inaugurated in 2017 with its new Technical Reserve. Today's collection has almost 8,000 museum items, more than 7,000 archival items, and about 16,000 bibliographic items, out of which 1,481 are artist books. But if you go to the South Zone of the city, specifically to the Copacabana neighborhood (where you can enjoy the amazing beach), do not miss the art 'Fragmentos', a solo exhibition from Vhils personally, my favorite. It is located in the heart of Copacabana, at the Tenreiro Aranha Street. From there, you can also have a privileged view of the Christ statue. 

© iStock / BrasilNut1

Escadaria Selarón

But Rio has even more to offer when it comes to street art. Also, at the city center, you can find several street arts on the walls and stairs that connect the city. For example, in the Lapa neighborhood, you can find another famous urban art spot. The "Escadaria Selarón",  decorated by the Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, shows the contrasting colors spreading in more than 2,000 pieces of tile on the 215 steps of the Selarón Staircase. 

© wikimedia / Marshallhenrie

It is considered a landmark of the city of Rio de Janeiro. The idea for this art began with a simple renovation of some steps near the artist's house. Rumur has it that at the beginning of the construction, the neighbors even made fun of the color combinations used in the tiles (some of the pieces were blue, green, and yellow - in fact,  the colors of the Brazilian flag). 

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you will take some time to check the best spots for street art in Rio de Janeiro. It is definitely a great way to understand the daily popular culture of its people.

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