Argentine street art is deeply rooted in social commentary, beginning during the years of dictatorship in the ’70s and ’80s. Street art movements gained momentum, then faltered in pace with the country’s erratic political dynamics. According to Jaz, a street artist based in Buenos Aires, the art form really took off in the nation’s capital around 2001, after the economic crash, and has been gaining ground ever since. The city’s highly stylized, Parisian-esque architecture makes large walls difficult to paint, so the majority of street art is highly concentrated in neighborhoods with accessible walls on the street level such as San Telmo.
According to Jaz, the government is putting a great deal of funds into beautifying certain neighborhoods, which creates many opportunities for artists, but brings about questions of gentrification common in today’s worldwide street art community. On this dynamic, Jaz says, “In terms of the common people on the streets, in Buenos Aires they are always super welcoming. I have so many good experiences painting in the streets, making friends that pass by, stop, and come back with food, drinks, or even money.” The contemporary street art community in Argentina has distanced itself somewhat from its political past, in line with the current trend of commodifying street art. Advertising agencies and production companies are major patrons of the art form. These commissions, along with the promotional work of groups such as Graffiti Mundo, founded by two expats from the U.K., are helping Argentina-based artists reach the world stage. While a great deal of work in Buenos Aires is being funded by the aforementioned entities, Jaz says that thanks to the increase in government commissions, the police are hardly an issue, even for those making work illegally in areas already saturated with street art.