The Musealization of Street Art: Changing Space, Shifting Perception

Blu and His Murals

     Blu (Senigallia, Italy), based out of Bologna, Italy, will serve as a prime example of a muralist active in the Street Art world. Blu first made a name for himself in Italy, where he has spent close to twenty years installing different murals on the local walls. He began working in the city of Bologna in 1999 and has been an active contributor to Street Art scene since. Blu started his career as an artist through the use of spray paint, however, his art style quickly evolved thanks to his use of house paint and rollers on telescopic poles. By 2001, his work had grown in size and become more dramatic as his new technique gave him more liberty to experiment. Around this time, his paintings of cartoonish human figures began to appear throughout the suburbs and historical center of Bologna. In 2004, local galleries had taken a notice to Blu’s murals and invited him to participate in upcoming exhibitions.[1]
           
      In a nomadic style, Blu began painting murals in 1999 across many countries of South America, Europe, and North America. In 2005 he worked with several artists from different Central and South American Countries and collaborated on murals as part of a festival called “Murales de Octubre”.[2] The following year, he moved around the region, painting murals in the different cities he visited such as Mexico City, Managua, Guatemala City, and more. From the Fall of 2007 through the Spring of 2008, Blu completed arguably his most important work while living in Buenos Aires. Blu used photography to create a stop motion video using over two-thousand paintings on a series of walls in the city. The completed a video, named Muto, won several awards at festivals, and can be seen on YouTube.[3] Between his many travels in Central and South America, Blu travelled to Germany, Austria, Poland, England, and the United States. Additionally, he was invited to paint murals on the fa├žade of several buildings, including the Tate Modern in London, the Deitch Gallery in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.[4]

     Although his works have been exhibited a number of times, he has made it clear that his works belong on the street.  Despite Blu’s objection to the notion of his artwork appearing in a museum setting, curators continue to include pieces of his murals into formal exhibitions. Blu has gone as far as destroying beloved murals, in protest to his works being placed within museums. In March of 2016, the exhibition Street Art: Banksy & Co., hosted in Palazzo Pepoli in Bologna, displayed works by several street artists, including Blu, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Invader. Nearly a week prior to the exhibitions opening, Blu, with the help of activist groups XM24 and Crash, covered nearly twenty years of his own work with gray paint.[5] Despite this, his work has been displayed in galleries and he continues to appear in sponsored festivals around the world.
             
     Blu’s artistic style sets him apart from other muralists. His work contains images of mythological creatures, but also modern characters and scenes from Sci-fi and fantasy films all mixed together with images from the real world. Blu achieves his unique aesthetic through two stages. He first sketches out his intention, and then, when it comes to working on the wall, he often creates something entirely new. Furthermore, he has expanded his medium of artistic expression to video. In addition to Muto, Blu has created over fifteen other painted animations over the course of fifteen years.
 

[1] ‘Street Art, Artists’, Tate.org.uk, 2016.
[2] ibid.
 
[3] Muto-A Wall Painted Animation By BLU, 2008 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuGaqLT-gO4> [accessed 21 September 2016].
 
[4] Tate Modern, ‘Street Art, Artists’, <Tate.org.uk./whats-on/tate-modern/exhibitions/street-art/street-art-artists> [accessed 6 June 2016].
[5] Michele Smargiass, ‘Street Writer Blu Destroys His Works in Bologna in Fight Against Private Predators’, La Repubblica, 12 March 2016, <bologna.repubblica.it/cronaca/2016/03/12/news/street_writer_blu_destroys_its_works_in_bologna_in_fight_against_private_predators_-135316522/?refresh_ce> [6 June 2017].

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