World-class street art in Aalborg
Street art is booming these days and all over the world ugly walls and colorless façades are being brought to life with original murals. What started out as guerrilla art has become a sought-after branch of contemporary art that caters to all and not just those who go to galleries and museums.
Street art has added an element of surprise and new dimensions to many an urban space, and this is what the two men behind the WEAArt project wanted to bring to Aalborg.
Lars Bonde is himself an artist and runs the VÆG gallery, while Mads Mulvad is the artistic director of Studenterhuset in Aalborg. When they met in 2012, they were both dismayed at the lack of contemporary art in Aalborg’s urban spaces, so they decided to do something about it. Their ambition was for internationally recognized street artists to produce works of art around the city over a three-year period.
Although they wanted the works to be of the highest quality, they weren’t to be too visible – both to avoid creating too much “noise” in the existing urban space and to preserve the element of surprise.
“Street art is an expression of a kind of democratization of art that makes it accessible to all. But it also has to respect the urban environment.” The clear message from Mulvad is that you’re forcing people to relate to the works against their will, and he continues:
“You should be able to explore the city and find art in a side street, around a corner, or in a parking lot. We want to take you on untrodden paths in your own city. A kind of art treasure hunt.”
“That’s why when the project was completed, we also discussed to what extent we should tell people the exact locations of the works in the form of a map, app, and website,” Bonde says. “If you’re following the art trail using a map, your senses aren’t heightened in the same way as when you have to find your own way around and take note of your surroundings. This can quickly make it more about checking things off on a map instead of experiencing the works in the urban environment.”
Making WEAArt happen was a challenge, with many elements that had to be put into place. Most of 2013 was spent on research, discussions with the artists and the building owners, thorough examination of district plans, and establishing a financial basis. They also gathered experience from similar projects abroad, including NuArt in Stavanger, in order to avoid the worst rookie mistakes.
With a lot of heart and plenty of elbow grease, they managed to kick off WEAArt in 2014 – despite a relatively modest budget – with a strong field of 10 artists from Australia, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Denmark, Spain, and Argentina.
“A combination of hard work and luck gave us a strong lineup in that first year,” Bonde says. “It started when renowned Spanish artist Escif from Valencia joined the project, and his involvement was like a seal of approval for the others, who then followed suit. A positive circle was created – and has since opened the doors to a large network. In fact, we’ve managed to get almost all the artists we could have dreamed of to be part of the project.”
The artists involved in WEAArt are carefully curated to showcase a wide range of styles and techniques for murals. The quality of the project has attracted international attention. A large number of project makers, government institutions, city councils and others from various countries have got in touch with the people at WEAArt looking for know-how and inspiration.
“Street art is far from unique to Aalborg, of course,” Bonde says. “It can be found in every self-respecting major city. The interesting thing here, though, is that we are a small provincial city that has managed to attract recognized artists from the street art scene, who during the course of the past 3–4 years have created over 40 works concentrated in the heart of the city. At the same time, this is a project that was born out of a private initiative and has been put together on a small budget.”
“Although the project is nearing its end, we’re still receiving inquiries from artists who want to be involved. And who knows, there’s plenty of urban space that could do with some artistic inspiration,” is the shared conclusion of the guys at WEAArt, Mulvad and Bonde.
Text: Lise Hannibal