Walls, abandoned plots, buildings and parks have become canvases for hundreds of Spanish and international artists who, since 2005, have been turning Zaragoza’s streets into a giant open-air gallery that’s unique in Europe.
It all started 14 years ago, and hundreds of surprising, colourful pieces of graffiti, stencils, stickers and other kinds of street art have been spreading across Zaragoza ever since. Not only has it given residents and visitors a fascinating, unique street gallery that’s become an international reference point for students and lovers of this type of artistic creation, but it is also helping to renovate and recover some of the most deprived areas of Aragon’s capital.
Zaragoza has a close and long-standing relationship with the world of graffiti that goes back to the 1990s, when the presence of the (now closed) US military base brought the city into contact with elements of hip hop culture like break dancing, rap and street art. From then, and for many years, a raft of spray paint virtuosos decorated the city’s walls in secret, laying the foundations for a recognised scene for this often-controversial form of artistic expression.
Everything changed in 2005 with the first Festival Asalto, a cultural initiative that aimed to exhibit new forms of artistic expression in the streets, at the same time as improving the aesthetic and surroundings of a historically deprived neighbourhood, El Gancho. The first artwork was a joint effort by Spanish collective Boa Mistura, but the event also saw the participation of 25 other artists, both Spanish and international, and their creations. The festival was a hit, and its urban exhibits -not just graffiti, but also stencils, sculptures and other types of art- multiplied each year, spreading to other areas further out from the city centre and making it possible to follow a street art trail that takes in most of Zaragoza.
Nicolas Barrome & Amandine Urruti
The best way to discover this “urban gallery” is to visit the festival’s website, where you’ll find an interactive map with the exact location of the artworks, as well as several pre-set routes that guide you through the different artistic settings. In the city’s historic centre, you’ll find a good proportion of the creations from the first festivals, with pieces by artists including Isaac Mahow, Roa, Blu, Stook, and 100 Pression among many others. In recent years, the festival has swapped its traditional setting in the centre for other neighbourhoods, including Delicias, Valdefierro and Oliver, inviting the world to interact with the city and its different districts while involving local residents and energising the streets with a project that’s the oldest of its type in Spain and that’s given Zaragoza a higher number of works of street art than any other city in the country.
This multi-award-winning competition normally takes place every September, making it the ideal time to visit and even participate in the creative processes of the different artists and groups. That said, its open, free and urban nature mean that any other time of the year is great for discovering this giant open-air gallery that’s brought radical change to the streets of Zaragoza, giving an innovative and original slant to contemporary artistic expression. Unmissable!