We already saw it in ‘Let’s Suppose New York is a City’ (Netflix): Fran Lebowitz is pissed off by the messages that New York sends him from the sidewalks, a sea of tiles truffled with plates and winks. I suggest that we follow in the wake of the writer through the streets of Barcelona, but on this ‘tour’ we will look up a bit. The soil does not interest us anymore. This time, we will hear what they have to say to us the walls of the city; Granite canvases colonized by calligrams, mysteries, rumba murals, works of great artists, scars of the past, forgotten statues, pop blinds… They are there, on walls, partitions, walls, dividing walls, but we never see them. Well, it is time to open your eyes and lift the veil. Never facing the wall has been so much fun.
The Olympus of Catalan rumba, a genuinely Barcelona musical genre, observes the inhabitants of the Raval from two separate walls on Carrer de la Cera, the Bronx of rumba, the epicenter of an area of the neighborhood that Vázquez Montalbán loved and in which for many years a large community of Catalan gypsies was concentrated. On this high-octane rumba voyage they stand two murals by Luis Zafrilla (number 6 and 57 de la Cera) that pay tribute to the past, present and future of Catalan rumba, from Peret to Estopa. Obligatory bow every time you pass, if you don’t want a ghostly guitar from Gato Pérez to scorch your bangs.
Catalan rumba murals. Calle de la Cera, 6 and 57.
In the seventeenth century they did not have sprays or listened to trap, but the thing about staining walls, they did. And with better results than current graffiti artists, as can be seen in the access to the old Hospital de la Santa Creu on Carme del Carme. The stones of the portal are full of medieval inscriptions, but in one of them there are a graffiti against the Count Duke of Olivares that has withstood the passage of time better than Jordi Hurtado’s pituitary. It can still be read, perfectly embedded in the stone: “‘Fueresse’ then Oliveros”. Another of the more complete graffiti reads: “Fire that is extinguished”, and some relate it to the fire that the hospital suffered in 1638. Better than Canal Historia.
Institute of Catalan Studies. Carme, 47.
Even in a land as devoted to consumerism as the Portal de l’Àngel, there are walls that keep epic stories. Standing, in a niche on the facade of the Bank of Spain in contact with the portal, a guardian angel watches over the people of Barcelona. The statue has had several lives and its last incarnation dates from 1955. It is a work of Ángel Ferrant, and he brandishes, threateningly, a sword over his mane. Little joke, if Godzilla decides to trample Barcelona, this angel with a knife would have the mission of protecting us.
Guardian Angel of Barcelona. Bank of Spain. Portal de l’Àngel.
No one knows who put it there. There has been much speculation about its role, but no clear conclusion has been reached. The stone hand on the wall at the intersection of the streets of Sòria and Sant Carles is one of the juiciest mysteries in Barceloneta: There are people who say that it is a traffic sign from the past, others link it with Satanism and black magic … I bet on a nail salon for the Bad Gyals of the 18th century.
The hand of Barceloneta. Soria-Sant Carles corner.
During centuries, Barcelonans flocked to Carrer dels Comtes to sharpen their knives, tools and bladed weapons. In the stone of the wall of the Cathedral the longitudinal sections caused by countless edges can still be seen; Centuries of rubbing that tell us about a dangerous, violent and superstitious Barcelona, since it was believed that after sharpening them in a holy building, the daggers would have magical capacities. And the notches do not deceive: neither the most oxidized Albacete razor nor Rosalía’s nails would resist the sharpening capacity of the cathedral stones.
Sharpeners. Calle dels Comtes.
Juanjo Sáez ‘undercover’
Doctor Astin, tell me?
It was the turn of the millennium and, before showing off palm hearts on the Nitsa track, Barcelona’s ‘modernité’ was warming livers in the Astin, a legendary bar that some ‘boomers’ still remember between pouts of nostalgia. Years ago the place is gone, but there is still a pop vestige on the wall of the entrance, a funny statue of doctor Astin that the famous Barcelona author and illustrator Juanjo Sáez designed for the premises. Many wonder how it is possible that the old doctor is still there, without blemish and with a smile from ear to ear. Juanjo tells me that they stuck it to the wall with Loctite: mystery solved.
Doctor Astin 1999. Lowerers, 9.
From a to Z
Brossa vs Junoy
Two calligrams facing each other in dividing paths, on Calle de València. Two visual poems separated by the school and chapel of the Immaculate Concepció, now under construction. One belongs to Josep Maria Junoy and dates back to 1916; the other is by Joan Brossa and dates from 1997. Both feature the letters A and Z, the birth and end of everything. And more than poems they are visual haikus: a couple of minutes of reflection and neuronal massage in the hotbed of Eixample. You will need them.
Visual poems. Valencia, 252.
Art on concrete
If your bunion is not crushed by some skater, raise your head when you go to the Macba and lose yourself in the ceramic mural that Eduardo Chillida put outside the museum, in the middle of the street: hardly anyone notices it, because right next to it is another priceless artistic jewel, the recovered mural that Keith Haring drew in Barcelona in 89. Do you want more? Don’t miss the friezes designed by Picasso at the College of Architects of Catalonia.
Murals by Chillida and Keith Haring. Plaza dels Àngels (Macba).
Picasso friezes from COAC. Plaza Nova, 5.
Trompe l’oeil in Born
In front of the Santa Caterina market, you will find a mirage in a dividing wall. Is a ghost building painted on stone, a facade with balconies which on its ground floor shows the realistic drawing of the modernist poultry shop Pavia, with a lying shop assistant ready to sell us a couple of thighs for sale. It is the work of Miquel Ballester, Rafael Cerdan, Jonathan Cerdan and Andreu Mitjans. By the way, the people on the upper balconies are the owner of the farm, his family … and even his pet!
Pavia Chicken Shop. Avenida de Francesc Cambó, 25.
Blinds of Grace
When the stores close
It may interest you
Before some envious graffiti artists rudely ruined them, Ax Colors’s ‘Game of Thrones’ blinds were a source of pride in Gràcia. Fortunately, Daenerys, the queen of dragons (Bruniquer, 23), survives, albeit barely. Despite the cheap vandalism of some monkey bars, neighborhood shops take their blinds very seriously, and when they close, the streets become a free, multi-colored museum of street art. Blinds that look like paintings: the Frankenstein by Estudi Karloff (Martínez de la Rosa, 38), the Nicola Tesla and Nelson Mandela by Montmany, the sexy gamba from Lluritu (Torrent de les Flors, 71), the melancholic woman from Chi Nanit ( Martínez de la Rosa, 42)… Can’t you see just one?