What a year! No one could have predicted 2020: to call it challenging would simply be an understatement. The whole world was brought to a halt and this also applied to street art, unfortunately: many festivals, exhibitions and events were canceled or postponed, as lockdowns and travel bans were imposed.
But if the art world machine stopped, art itself didn't! Many individuals did many great things in quarantine: there was the Home Mural Fest, Pejac (whose project ranks quite high on our list, hint-hint) invited people to create and share their quarantine art, and numerous artists had Instagram lives in which they shared details about their life and creativity.
Many couldn't keep away from the streets either: with the eruption of the Black Lives Matter Protests earlier this year, street artists went out and joined by their communities they painted murals in support of the ongoing fight against racial injustice. Artists also expressed their solidarity with all the front-line workers, still fighting for everybody's lives as we speak, by painting beautiful tributes in so many ways. Many aspects of the ongoing pandemic are (being) immortalized in so many works of art, creating a unique visual history of one of the most unprecedented moments of our lives.
During grim days such as these, art remains a great solace and consolation. Here's hoping for a better 2021 and many more great murals and street art pieces for us to enjoy!
Featured images courtesy the artists.
We simply love Levalet. True to his style and the street, his characters (and most of the time self-portraits) remain extremely relatable. Such is the case with The Sleeping City, depicted here during the first coronavirus lockdown in April 2020 - like the young man depicted here, Paris and many other big cities around the world went to sleep, waiting for the chaos around us to be over.
A young Belgian artist, Bisser is best known for murals featuring stylized, cartoonish human figures - extremely appealing, yet very hard to categorize and define. This June, the artist created a new wall dedicated to the employees working at the De Wingerd residential care center during this pandemic. You can find all their names mentioned in the Red Cross.
A highly talented Croatian artist, Lonac is best known for his large-scale photorealistic murals. He draws inspiration from skateboard culture, comics, graffiti, movies, music, but also current social issues. In his native town of Zagreb, the artist painted a mural titled Polupani Lončići (Broken Pots). It is a phrase used in a childhood game of hide and seek if someone would be caught cheating in any way.
This July, the celebrated British artist Marc Quinn presented a temporary public installation on top of Edward Colston’s empty plinth in Bristol, England. The Colson's statue was toppled during the Black Lives Matter protest. Titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, the new installation is based on an image Quinn saw on Instagram of local resident Jen Reid standing on the vacant plinth with her fist raised in a Black Power salute.
An artist at the forefront of the urban art and one of the main figures of the movement for over a decade, D*Face is best known for his pop-inflected body of work that critiques the modern world, in particular, consumerism and the American Dream. The artist visited Oostende in Belgium this summer on the occasion of the 5th-anniversary edition of the Crystal Ship. The artist painted a piece in Duinhelmstraat titled Mermaids Tale, depicting a sailor and a mermaid in a passionate embrace.
A Canadian visual artist, Aaron Li-Hill creates murals that range from smaller multiples to enormous murals that explore industrialization, scientific breakthrough, man versus nature and information saturation. Working in the heart of Dalston, East London, the artist masterfully captured the spirit of Gillett Square in his wall titled Gestures of a Square. Trying to encapsulate a place with so many voices, the artist included people’s drawings, names, memories, manifestos and statements, folded into the clothing of the figures.
A Paris-based artist, Ardif examines the mechanics present behind living beings. Illustrating a symmetry between nature and the industrial world, he explores architecture, materials and the duality between the animal depicted and architectural buildings. The artist created a paste-up in Paris as part of the event Carpe Diem organized in collaboration with Fondation Recherche Médicale, paying tribute to the caregivers and all the people in the first line against COVID-19.
A Barcelona-based muralist and illustrator, Cinta Vidal creates scenes of intersecting perspectives that seem to defy gravity and structural conventions. The artist created a site-specific piece in Ordes, Galicia, basing the entire design around the already existing windows on the building. As the artist explained, as soon as she saw the wall, she knew that the windows were in charge. "I like to play with architecture to talk about how we are and how we relate to each other."
A painter and muralist based in Barcelona, Elisa Capdevila has been active on the urban art scene for a while, developing large murals both nationally and internationally. Visiting the Sant Joan d’Alacant in Spain on the occasion of the La Tapia Fest, the artist created a large-scale piece titled Noche. The work depicts sadness, as the artist explains, her favorite among "emotions considered unpleasant" to feel." She describes the feeling as "wide and silent, like a clear and clear night."
A German street art collective, 1UP is widely known for tagging various places, often difficult to reach, with their easily recognizable symbol. This summer, the collective tagged a train in Belgium with a graffiti reading "Please, I can't breathe". The piece commemorates George Floyd, whose murder has launched a series of protest around the world. On their Facebook page, the crew called the public to support their local anti brutality movement and get organized.
A Portuguese artist, Add Fuel is known for reinterpreting the language of the traditional tile design, in particular, the Portuguese tin-glazed ceramic azulejo. The artist took part in FALU — Urban Art Festival in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal and created a massive mural titled Caldense. Reinterpreting the legacy of traditional Caldas ceramics, the pieces is inspired by the enormous Bordallo Pinheiro, the richness of natural elements represented in his collections, and the genius shapes of his objects.
A burgeoning Spanish graffiti artist, Sabek made a name of himself by producing captivating murals that focus on the human relationship with their primal instincts. For the sixth edition of Rexenera Fest, an international public art festival in Carballo, Galicia, the artist has created a new mural called Resilience that features a hybrid being eager to recover indicating the artist’s articulation of the global pandemic.
This year, the Dutch city of Breda was enriched with a mural produced by a Ukranian street artist Isakov, acclaimed for his unique style inspired by traditional Russian architecture, Art Deco and Cubism. The exuberant mural titled Blind Wall was based on an image of the Maria Hemelvaart church that was built in 1888, and demolished in 1967.
Telmo Miel is a graffiti-based duo from the Netherlands established in 2012 by Telmo Pieper and Miel Krutzmann. Well-known for their vibrant surreal murals vibrant color, this year they have made a mural called Gardien de Crécerelle or in English "Guardian of the Kestrels" that depicts the endangered birds of prey present in the area around the city of Boulogne which commissioned an artwork.
This particular mural was made in Lugano by the established Swiss street art group NEVERCREW, recognized for large-scale murals, installations and urban interventions focused on the exploration of the liaison between humankind and nature. Under the title Close up, this impressive composition commissioned by the Arte Urbana Lugano festival depicts a pile of eight whales of varying sizes.
This mural was made by the Swiss artist Fabian "Bane" Florin, who is a part of the graffiti art duo Bane Pest together with Yiannis Hadjipanayis since 2014. Titled Possession (genital mutilation), it deals with the global issue of genital mutilation of girls and women around the world.
The next beautiful mural on our list was made by Charlotte-born graffiti artist Matt Moore, who gained a local reputation as a leading figure of the city’s mural art scene. Under the title ATLAS, it features a futuristic-looking sequence of two hands making a digitally rendered image of a rose.
The British graffiti artist Pref best known for simplistic murals centered on different 3D fonts and words made this mural, reading "Top Time", in London. By focusing on challenging the common graffiti aesthetic, he has formed unique signature typography that captivates any observer.
As an artist duo, Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn gained wider recognition for exploring different modes of abstract patterns in public spaces. This year they have produced this mural at the Appalachian State University on a three-level staircase. The composition executed in a kaleidoscope of stark patterns seems to imitate manually-woven textile.
This intriguing mural called Shadow on the land, an excavation and bush burial is more of a site-specific made by Nicholas Galanin in Sydney’s Hyde Park. This intervention is the excavation for the hated statue of Captain James Cook, the 18th-century British Royal Navy captain who landed on the territory now known as Australia.
While being under the lockdown, like many other artists, Banksy never stopped working. The most famous anonymous street artist in the world posted a few images of a work created in his home bathroom, accompanied by the remark "My wife hates it when I work from home." The artist painted a group of mischievous rats destroying everything in sight: swinging from towel racks, running on the precious toilet paper, marking the days of quarantine on the wall, and generally making a disgusting mess of the toilet.
While the London-based artist RUN is known for playful characters that speak to diverse audiences on multiple levels, BASIK combines a range of sources, from his writing background and Medieval and Renaissance art to modern and contemporary art movements and avant-gardes. During February, the artists joined forces, resulting with a stunning piece in Florence, Italy located on the façade of a building in the district of Rovezzano. The theme of the piece is boxing, referencing a popular boxing gym next doors.
An alias of Judith de Leeuw, JDL is an Amsterdam-based street artist who uses her art to translate emotion, but the concepts are deeply themed around her surroundings and social issues.
UPDATE: A kind Widewalls reader has let us know that the mural below was actually painted in 2018, not 2020. We apologize for the mistake!
The current coronavirus pandemic inspired a range of artists to create messages of resilience and hope. This is also the case with Pony Wave, a talented Los Angeles-based street artists known for a fresh style characterized with a touch of photorealism. Her latest amazing wall, Art Reflects Life appeared in Venice Beach, depicting love in a time of COVID-19.
Known for large murals of beautiful women, the British artist Fin Dac takes a new turn on 19-century art movement The Aesthetics. This spring, the artist visited Brighton, Australia to create a mural titled Zuihou, as part of his series Hidden Beauties. Erected in undisclosed locations around the world, the series creates a treasure hunt for its seekers.
A talented street art duo composed of Florencia Durán Itzaina and Theic, Colectivo Licuado gives color to both public and private spaces with site-specific pieces that combine the culture and tradition of a particular environment with their own aesthetics. Their latest massive piece in Vigo was created as part of the festival Vigo cidade de cor. Titled Las Aguaderas, it depicts women of different ages carrying water, referencing the long history of women responsible for fetching water and bringing it to their homes.
Regularly counted amongst the finest French multidisciplinary artists working today, Nelio moves from conceptual to expressionistic, from construction to destruction, establishing bridges between these vastly different processes. This August, the artist took part in a project in Rouen curated by Olivier Landes for Art en ville. Covering a whole side of a building, this massive abstract piece engages in a dialogue with architecture and its surroundings.
The collective NEVERCREW, composed of two urban artists, Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni, has been quite busy this year. Their piece Collapse now adorns a building in Grenoble, France, created as part of Grenoble Street Art Fest. Connected to the previous one realized in the city in 2016, the work brings forward the dichotomy between needs and exploiting, between belonging and appropriation, to recall the distorted perception that humankind has of nature.
A French artist duo, Ella and Pitr combine the ruinous beauty of abandoned places with optical illusions, transforming surfaces that they touch. On the occasion of their solo show in Paris, the duo created a large-scale wall across 15 meters at the city's 8th District. Titled Metaphor of Someone, it is the first wall they painted that doesn't feature their well-known characters.
A Madrid-based street artist, Sabek is known for his large-scale murals depicting clear, black, almost stamp-like figures usually inspired by nature and animals. For Vigo Cidade de Cor in Vigo, the artist created a colorful piece titled Anhelo. The work poses a reflection on the human being and his relationship with the primal instincts.
This mural was produced in Saint Petersburg by the Russian artist Ulyana Poloz after the painting of an American portrait, figure, and decorative painter and illustrator, John White Alexander. It is part of Outings, a street art project by the French photographer and filmmaker Julien de Casabianca.
The Bulgarian graffiti duo Arsek and Erase painted a new mural to express support for the struggle against the COVID-19. Best known for their vibrant style saturated with quirky, surreal characters, Jelio and Georgi Dimitrov teamed up at the beginning of the 2000s, and ever since they have executed numerous commissions and works in public space.
In November, the established Australian graffiti artist Drez produced a new mural in Melbourne. This abstract work reminiscent of Op art is the most recent example of the artist’s unique approach to mural making primarily characterized by chaotic pointillism.
This particular installation titled Stay home, stay safe was produced out of recycled Plexiglas by a French artist Pierre Brault, who gained prominence for his luminous works focused on the exploration of nature, time and space.
The Chilean street artist INTI has created a new mural titled TAIÑ MAPU / Our Land in Aalborg, Denmark as part of the 6th edition of the Out in the Open mural project by Kirk gallery. This intriguing work refers to the way humans treat nature and it nicely represents the artist’s style infused by Ancient South American culture.
This beautiful mural featuring a young woman holding flower was produced by a Spanish street artist Aryz, as part of the reconstruction project for Versailles Habitat. Numerous artists gathered to create murals as an homage to the famous French botanist Bernard de Jussieu and his work on plant and animal species in this district.
For this year's edition of Urvanity Art Fair, the Swiss street art duo Nevercrew made an impressive mural called Offset, as a reaction to the climate crisis and animal extinction. It depicts a pile of bears juxtaposed against a pink background and covered with a blue stripe.
The Spanish artist Manomatic, known for exploring our relationship with the destructive automatism of our day-to-day lives, the convention, and routine, created a new mural titled Khanya in Valladolid, Spain that features an expressive, yet sensual portrait of a girl.
This mural was created in joined efforts by French Canadian artist Sandra Chevrier and Shepard Fairey. The 100-foot-tall artwork titled The Beauty of Liberty and Equality was commissioned by the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S.
The Swiss artist Mona Caron is best known for her multi-story murals celebrating the rebellious resilience of weeds. The artist visited San Jose, California to paint a beautiful, wall-transcending mural on a commission by the city. Titled Limonium, it depicts Limonium californicum, a species of sea lavender native to western North America from Oregon to Baja California, with occasional sightings in Nevada and Arizona.
The Brazilian artist Filite is best known for his unusual and colorful portraits. He created an amazing piece in Sao Paulo this year in his distinct visual language, combining portraiture with an image of a butterfly.
The famed French artist JR visited New York this May to create a stunning piece covering an entire wall of an East Village tenement. Titled CONFINED II, it depicts a portrait of famous ballerina Charlotte Ranson, contorted into a small space, reflecting what we all feel under the coronavirus quarantine.
Best known for his stunning portraits executed on large scale, Sabotaje al Montaje created a new piece in his hometown this February for the Urban Art festival, Seisdedoce. Titled Digital Isolation, it features a lady looking at her cell phone, speaking of the isolation that technology brings us.
Although best known for his slim, ghost-line, all-black human figures often accompanied by naked branches, the artist David de la Mano created a piece in Montevideo that differs from his usual aesthetics. The artist painted the word "FRAGIL" (fragile) in the Buceo neighborhood so that its reflection in the water underneath mirrors it perfectly.
Tackling a socially relevant issue of plastic waste, the Portuguese artist Bordalo II uses various discarded objects to create installations that depict animals that are possibly perishing to the effects of such waste existing in their natural habitat. His amazing trash sculpture titled Half Desert Lynx is located in Lisbon.
The French artist ASTRO ODV is known for his abstract art which combines curves, calligraphy and dynamic shapes. The artist's lates geometrical illusion is created in Marseille, France.
Nicolás Romero Escalada aka Ever took part in the Urvanity 2020 in Madrid, creating a rich and colorful piece on Embajadores Street. The work combines art history references with figurative elements typical of the Lavapies neighborhood. It featured motifs from Matisse's iconic painting Dance and an assemblage of fruits, flowers and a range of different objects, all referencing El Rastro, a lively and multicultural flea market in Lavapies.
The most famous anonymous street artist Banksy visited Bristol on the occasion of Valentine's Day to create a new piece. The work shows a young girl firing a slingshot of flowers at a building. Created on a rented home owned by Edwin Simons, it was soon covered with a protective board after it was vandalized.
On the occasion of the Grenoble Street Art Fest, INTI visited the city this summer to create a new piece titled A Pale Blue Dot / Un Punto Azul PÁlido. The mural is accompanied by a quote by Carl Sagan:
...Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
It's something of a tradition to have WD aka Wild Drawing ranking very highly on our yearly list of the most beautiful murals of the year, chosen by our very own Instagram followers. In 2020, the artist comes up 5th with his site-specific piece titled An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. Painted in Bali, Indonesia, it depicts a young man about to fire an arrow at a real-life visitor of the obscure abandoned space it was painted in.
WD Wild Drawing is known for his detailed portraits, often painted using some sort of trompe l'oeil or optical illusion.
The Spanish artist Pejac has done some wonderful things this year (especially during lockdown), and one of them is Overcoming, one of three interventions that the artist did at the University Hospital Marqués de Valdecilla in his hometown Santander, Spain. The project, titled STRENGTH, addresses different aspects of the current crisis and proposes the ways we could respond to them.
Carnival is cancelled! proclaims this mural by Case MaClaim, painted in Aalborg, Denmark as port of the Out in the Open mural project by the local KIRK Gallery. It stands as a testament to the actual carnival taking place in the town, as the biggest of its kind in Northern Europe. Like many things in 2020, the event was canceled.
In this mural, painted by one of the most acclaimed German artists, a young woman is ready to attend the carnival in her clown costume and make-up, but ends up disappointed at its cancellation. The carnival in Aalborg then became a metaphor to the artist of the current situation in the world. As the artist himself puts it:
A carnival is something special because it is an event where all are equal. It is the only time of the year where everybody gets to be the same – rich or poor, CEO or student, man or women, since everybody is dressed out to be something different.
In September, Italian street artist Nicola Alessandrini participated in the appARTEngo street art festival in Stigliano, a small town near Matera, Italy. There, he painted the monachicchio; in the Stiglianese tradition, it is the wandering soul of a child who died without being baptized. It usually appears at night or at dawn, which is when its mischievous jokes take place. The only way to defend yourself from its jokes is to take off its hoodie, rendering it powerless.