Justin Beiber and the graffiti revolution in Bogota scandal is hard to believe for some unsuspecting tourists. Riding a taxi from the airport to downtown Candelaria, one thing is ubiquitous: graffiti. And from what I saw, many are murals, too.
In many countries, people consider graffiti as a public sore eye. That’s why many artists do their thing clandestinely, to dodge arrests by law enforcement officers.
But not Justin Beiber.
Justin Beiber’s influence on Street Art in Colombia
In 2013, after the Canadian sensation’s concert in Bogota, he wanted to leave his mark in the city to honor his dead hamster – through graffiti. Guess what? The police officers escorted him under the bridge at Avenida 26, an area that was off-limits to spray graffiti.
When a group of artists heard this, they remembered their fellow artist, Diego Beccerra, who the police murdered in 2011. The blatant hypocrisy of law enforcement drove the creative community to condemn the special treatment extended to the singer.
With such outrage, the Bogota police changed their stance on street art. They issued a statement describing graffiti as artistic, self, and cultural expression.
Naturally, after hearing the statement, Bogota’s creative community started painting the street walls. They used the statement as a sign to express their emotions through art.
For these urban artists, there will be no more arrests, jail time, and police beatings.
The backlash to Beiber’s escorted “night out” scandal in Bogota reverberated throughout the country. It paved other artists in Colombia to openly express their feelings through street art.
Today, graffiti is everywhere in the country, not just in Bogota. Walking around Candelaria, the used-to-be-empty walls are now showing a kaleidoscope of colors with various intentions and messages.
The only places, nowadays, that are off-limits to the street artists are the public buildings, monuments, and other defined surfaces.
It is good to note that the city is now hiring artists to create murals in the city’s public spaces. These wonderful murals reflect cultural, social, individual, and political messages.
However you view graffiti – as an art or an eye sore – let’s not deny the part of how these streets arts enrich our city, shaped our opinions on cultural and political matters, and how they can be a catalyst for change.
Graffiti Tour in Bogota
If you love graffiti or street art, there are some tours you can join around the city. However, as our tour guide said, “Don’t go beyond La Candelaria.” He always emphasised safety while we were walking around, even in broad daylight. The photos you saw above are only on the streets of La Candelaria. If only I had time, I would have taken the tour to El Paraiso Favela or the Urban Art/Graffiti Tour.