Graffiti and street art may seem wholly modern, but in Mexico, these art forms have their roots in murals. The popular genre is thousands of years old and had its golden age during the 20th century, when renowned muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros were frequently commissioned by the government to paint massive scenes.
Take a walk around Mexico City today and you’ll see walls painted or plastered with signatures, poetry, political propaganda, advertisements, and art of all kinds.
Where the Walls Can Talk
Street art is all over the capital, and is especially visible if you’re out and about before the stores open, or after they close, as many works are created on the metal roll-down gates that protect businesses after-hours. The tour outlined below will take you to see some particularly notable art pieces, but remember that these spaces are in high demand. As you’ll see, the walls of the city can be a spray-paint battleground. Don’t be surprised if you find a blank canvas in any of these spots, a good sign that something new is soon to come!
Brick and Mortar Battleground
Some of the most vibrant streets in the city are in the Juárez, Roma, and Condesa neighborhoods. You can see just how competitive wall space is at Avenida Álvaro Obregón between Tonalá and Jalapa. The collaborative project — a Chinese dragon by Mexican artist Revost and the clay man figure by Argentine Martín Ferreyra — has been partially covered by the tag of a prolific local graffiti artist.
Myth, Magic and Murals
Further down the street, you can’t miss Icarus, by artist AEC. It was created as part of the Beauty Project Mexico and sponsored by a local gallery. The massive mural displays the winged god in a business suit, falling down toward Avenida Álvaro Obregón at Insurgentes, wings in flames.
Thanks to a beautification project at Orizaba and Querétaro, you can watch traditional backstrap weaving being taught against a backdrop of a weaving-inspired mural. The art here helped transform this corner, which once had a terrible garbage problem, into a living work of art.
Keep your eyes peeled for new pieces popping up on walls throughout the area, especially in Roma, as the neighborhood rallies behind the #VaPorLaRoma campaign to encourage post-earthquake visitors.
Alleyways and Subway Tunnels
Near the San Juan Market, on Callejón de San Ignacio on the west side of the Colegio Vizcaínas, you’ll find an area of old buildings blocked to through traffic, and a number of massive murals, including magical mushroom-scape.
Just outside the Salto del Agua metro station entrance on Arcos de Belén, you’ll find “Ella,” a modern surreal portrait by Mexican artist Smithe. Continue from there along Regina, walking, or hop onto the metro. Two stops east at Pino Suárez, if you’re lucky you’ll catch the latest addition to Line 2: a train painted with the work of artist Keith Haring.
Centro Histórico by Twilight
Head up either 20th of November or Pino Suarez Avenues toward the Zócalo. On these streets you’ll get to see the latest pieces to appear on the metal gates of closed shops. This is, by far, the best way to see what the city has to offer: in the light of dawn before the bustle begins, or in the neon after-hours glow — best enjoyed with a side of street tacos, of course.