We all know about famous Spanish artists such as Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro or Salvador Dali, but what about contemporary art? Where are Spanish artists placed in the modern art world? Spanish art has certainly been an important contributor to Western art throughout centuries and has produced many famous and influential artists who have been changing the course of art history. With so many different artistic movements that took place within the peninsula such as Surrealism or Cubism, the history of Spanish art is quite remarkable. If you take a tour around Spanish world-class art institutions such as Reina Sofia, El Prado, or Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, you will come face to face with the country’s fascinating cultural heritage and the deep impact their artists made.
Over the last decade, the peninsula also became famous for its growing street art scene. It has grown to be one of the most vibrant in Europe, with a large number of highly talented and extremely prolific urban Spanish artists whose artworks are at pair with those created by the most prominent artists coming from America, France and UK. Developing into a world-leading center for graffiti and street art, Spain gave birth to amazing spray painters, sculptors, stencil artists and muralists who are now decorating urban spaces from Shanghai to Amsterdam.
We have created a selection of famous Spanish artists who are leaving a significant mark inside the fabric of contemporary art. Coming from different backgrounds, employing various techniques and creating a wide array of artworks of many different aesthetics and styles, these Spanish artists have one thing in common: they all deserve your attention as some of the best in the world today.
Featured images: David de la Mano Mural, via urbanite.com; SpY Mural, via lamesclamagazine.com; Isaac Cordal Miniature Sculptures, via streetartfest.com; Angela de la Cruz exhibition, via mikesmithstudio.com
One of the most famous European artists of his generation, Antoni Tapies was a Spanish painter, sculptor and theorist. Experimenting with materials foreign to academic artistic expression, he often employed found objects and natural materials. The famous Spanish artist created a variety of matter paintings, believing that the notion of matter must also be understood from the point of view of Medieval mysticism as magic, mimesis and alchemy.
Featured images: Antoni Tapies, via gettimages.com; Antoni Tàpies - Pintura, 1955, via museoreinasofia.com
Regarded as one of the most important exponents of politically committed realism, Eduardo Arroyo is a self-taught Spanish artist who created paintings that tell stories. He employed simple-to-read references to historic events and composed stereotypical figures, which represent characters from certain social classes. He often included defamiliarized quotations from famous pictures with a touch of irony.
Featured images: Eduardo Arroyo; Eduardo Arroyo - Dichosos Quien Como Ulises, 1977, via reddit.com
The work of Spanish painter Lita Cabellut consists of larger that life-size portraits in a special fresco technique. Her monumental portraits combine a reverence for the Old Masters with an interest in advancing formal processes and modes of expression. Famous for an immensely enjoyable, communicative and recognizable “Cabellut-palette”, she is considered a painter with a unique pictorial language. Through her distinctive work, Lita is among the contemporary masters of portrait art.
Featured images: Lita Cabellut, via marcaespana.es; Lita Cabellut - Coral Girls, via pinterest.com
Madrid-based multi-faceted urban creative Okuda San Miguel, who started his career as a graffiti practitioner in the streets of Santander, is widely known for his murals, paintings, sculptures and installations of highly distinctive style, which is often classified as pop surrealism but is deeply rooted in street art and influenced by film, music and different cultures he meets as he travels the world. Composed of both explosively colored and monochrome geometric shapes, which blend with organic forms and gray buildings, Okuda's often provocative and thought-provoking artworks convey strong messages about the meaning of life, religion, war and lack of freedom in the world of capitalism. Okuda has exhibited his canvases and sculptures all across the globe, and left his expressive murals on the walls of cities such as Miami, London, Oslo and Brussels.
Featured image: Okuda Mural, via okudart.es
A painter, sculptor and a printmaker, Manolo Valdes is best known for his association with the artistic group known as Equipo Cronica. Characterized by the unusual materials and crudely applied paint, his works often serve as a political commentary. The famous Spanish artist also incorporates and appropriates traditional motifs and compositions from the history of arts in his signature style consists of pared-down forms and unrefined mark-makings.
Featured image: Manolo Valdes Painting, via pinterest.com
Andrea Michaellson, better known as BTOY, is a renowned female street artist from Barcelona, recognized for her mixed media murals based on photographs of celebrities and extremely detailed stencils. It all started as a way of coping with her mother's death when BTOY found painting as a distraction for her mind and soul. At first, she started combining photographs and painting, and then went on to experiment with a variety of mediums, including stencils, acrylics and spray paint. These improvisational experiments led BTOY to create exceptional stencil artworks which portray female icons, which have gained her a huge following and international acclaim. With each new piece she creates, BTOY manages to amaze the audience and makes divisions between street art and fine art seem rather trivial.
Featured image: BTOY Mural, via ekosystem.org
Sr. X (Señor X) is a muralist from the small Spanish town of Gijon, who is recognized for his seemingly simple style of stencils which appears like vintage advertisements from the 1950's. At first look, Sr. X's pieces seem funny and entertaining but very often carry provocative and politically subversive messages and ironic comments of the world we live in. Sr. X produces highly accessible stencils which are greatly influenced by pop culture and urban myths, his illustrative style easily draws the attention of the audience and reverberates with them, as his messages usually provoke thought and initiate debate.
Featured image: Sr. X Mural, via lifebuzz.com
Anton Unai is an extraordinary, self-taught street artist of unique aesthetics and explosive style. His artistic philosophy is based around the rejection of dogma and strong belief in the spontaneity of the creative process. Often spending days on a piece, Unai utilizes the poetry of chaos as he produces his installations which are created from objects he finds at the location. Through improvisation and violent gestures he gives new life to the waste of urban societies, thus creating rough and provocative work of chaotic compositions, which defies the traditional aesthetic preconceptions and academia. But below all that 'mess' and chaos of subculture artifacts and religious iconography, Anton Unai's multifaceted installations show highly delicate and deeply sentimental artwork of meta-narratives, which reveal the vulnerability of humanity.
Featured image: Anton Unai Installation, via openwallsgallery.com
Symbols, geometric patterns and radiant colors fill the fantastic world found on walls and canvases painted by Zosen Bandido. His complex and beautifully executed colorful paintings carry strong commentaries of the world's events, and captivate audiences around the globe. This Barcelona-based creative from Buenos Aires entered the world of graffiti in the late 1980s by tagging the streets of his hometown. After moving to Barcelona, he dug deeper into street art as he found inspiration by searching for murals across town and attending weekly meetings of the Placa Universitat underground urban art crew. As the graffiti scene exploded in the early 1990s Zosen Bandido completely submerged himself into the underground scene, and as he was growing older, his work became more elaborate and larger in scale.
Featured image: Zosen Mural, via streetartbio.com
Witty minimalistic works of Pejac, often compared to that of Banksy, has gained him huge recognition in the previous years. Using brushes, pencils and acrylics, Pejac produces simple, yet clever artworks he masterfully blends into the architectural elements of the site. From smallest interventions to massive scale murals, Pejac's work of subtractive technique is versatile in both medium and subject matter, and very often socially and politically engaged, conveying profound and meaningful messages. With his inventive streetscapes, Pejac uses common outdoor features and transforms them in subtle and diverse ways to create mind-bending pieces, like a plane crashing through a brick wall and a world map going down the drain. These works only display Pejac's unique talent to tell more with very little, and this will probably grant him the status of one of the most famous contemporary Spanish artists in years to come.
Featured image: Pejac Artwork, via theculturetrip.com
Young Barcelona-based street artist and illustrator, who goes by the name of Aryz, generated a huge buzz in the last couple of years. Shortly after he entered the world of street art, Aryz managed to receive wide recognition for his intricately painted artworks of high detail, which he creates using brushes, rollers and spray paint. His large scale murals can be found on walls of abandoned factories and disused buildings, which is where Aryz prefers to work, since those places offer solitude and peace, a necessity for his creative process. His stunning gigantic murals of awkward emotional mixtures and fantastic atmospheres rightfully establish him as one of the most influential street artists of today.
Featured image: Aryz Mural, via pinterest.com
VinZ is an extremely gifted creative from Valencia, who creates extraordinary pieces which lie somewhere between classic graffiti and illustration. VinZ utilizes excellent drawing techniques to create strange, and often provocative artworks of nude avian hybrid creatures that can be found in public spaces across Europe. Seemingly playful and entertaining, VinZ's work is profound and quite serious. These captivating images have a certain magnetizing effect which draws the viewers into an awkward world of complex narrative. His artistic VinZ Feel Free project is a multilayered philosophical view of the social and political environment, carrying strong commentary of the world ruled by banksters, governments and repressive apparatus of the state. The images he uses are created from his own photographs of protests and police violence in Spain.
Featured images: VinZ Mural, via globalstreetart.com
SpY is a Spanish urban creative whose work involves the appropriation of urban elements through transformation or replication. His practice comments on urban reality and the interference in its communicative codes. Often described as Spanish Banksy, his interventions take the form of a word play with the high impact capacity, and are always carefully archived through photography. Even though his practice evolved into brave contemporary conceptual art, he never gave up his roots – graffiti.
Featured images: SpY- Pyramid, Vitoria, Spain 2013, via spy-urbanart.com
The Spanish muralist Sebas Velasco is famous for his enviable technique imbued with naturalism. Using walls and tables as his canvas, he mostly employs oil, acrylic, spray and pencils. His work includes a wide variety of themes and techniques, which range from contemporary figurative painting to illustration. Even though he finds the most of his inspiration on the street, his authentic repertoire of pictorial poetry can also be seen in galleries all around the world.
Featured image: Sebas Velasco Mural, Kiev, Ukraine 2016, via graffitistreet.com
One of the most prominent Spanish urban artist, illustrator and graphic designer Antonio Segura Donat, better known by his artistic name Dulk, creates unique and mesmerizing artworks inspired by his dreams and everyday experiences. Dulk's bizarre and affectionate paintings blur the lines between reality and fiction and are clearly influenced by both classic paintings of Italian and Flemish masters and pop surrealism, while showing his strong experience in graphic design. His murals and illustrations of bold colors and wonderful narrative are usually depicting highly detailed and wildly imaginative animal characters with quirky expressions. They are dark and yet lighthearted at the same time, and show us the strange and fantastical world of Dulk's imagination populated by twisted hybrid creatures.
Featured image: Dulk Mural, via dulk.es
Isaac Cordal is famous for his minuscule sculptures placed in public places. Usually tucked away in drainpipes, cracks and other unusual places, these tiny, cement figures emphasize all the loneliness and isolation of the modern age. Reflecting themes such as politics, bureaucracy, human misery, climate change, and power, these figures are reduced in size and thoughtfully placed to expand the imagination of passers-by.
Featured image: Isaac Cordal - Follow the Leaders, via cementeclipses.com
Mainly focused on mural paintings, Spanish creative David de la Mano is experimenting with a lot of different techniques such as acrylics, pens, watercolors, ink, and collage. He has developed a unique minimalist style characterized by the monochromatic use of black and a portrayal of anthropomorphic figures that reflect the human condition and mankind.
Featured image: David de la Mano in Salamanca Spain, via urbanitewebzine.com
Merging mural art, graffiti, oil and acrylic paint, Axel Void creates pieces that are often shocking, unpleasant, and dark. He is strongly influenced by classical painting and drawing. His works are dominated by unpleasant, psychological and social issues combined with ironic statements. He is part of a generation of young painters who derive their dynamics from graffiti culture and urban art.
Featured image: Axel Void Mural, via pinterest.com
Work of Gonzalo Borondo, the London-based muralist from Segovia, is largely based on classic painting techniques, and utilizes unrestrained, expressive brushstrokes and dripping paint. His contemplative portraits of raw, expressive style may seem unfinished, yet feel strong and mystical. These ghostly figures beautifully merge with their environments without overbearing presence. Apart from using paint and brush, Borondo is also widely known for his glass scratch-painting technique, very often found on windows of closed-down shops. These pieces play with different perspectives and light and shadow effects in a way that what is seen as a face on the window turns to a skull painted by its shadow.
Featured image: Borondo Mural, via theculturetrip.com