Berlin. Melbourne. Caracas. These come to mind when one thinks of cities with fantastic street art. Bratislava hasn’t made an appearance on any lists or street art blogs that I’ve ever come across. And yet, even before I moved here, it was one of the first things that I noticed about this little city. Of course, there are unsightly tags everywhere. The artistic equivalent of a dog lifting its leg. But they stand no chance of being noticed next to the vibrant murals that light up the city.
One of the most iconic sites in Bratislava is the “Van Gogh House”, a derelict structure next to the cathedral. The vacant windows have been filled in with Van Gogh-ish works.
Just across from it, childlike drawings are scrawled on the wall next to the road. This was taken in 2011, and the wall has since chipped away considerably. But no one has yet painted over it.
Most SNP bus station, under the “UFO Bridge”, has the best collection of street art in the city center. New frescoes are always appearing to take the place of those that have faded away.
This clever guy is my favorite. Or was. The last time I was down there, he was barely discernible. I wonder how street artists feel about their works peeling, flaking, chipping away into oblivion. I imagine that they learn to be comfortable with impermanence.
There’s a humorous, whimsical feel to most of the street art in Bratislava. Even the most serious mural has an innocent softness about it.
I found this cutie past the underpass and up the staircase towards the castle.
When you get to the top, your gaze is drawn across the river, towards the block apartment district of Petrzalka. A labyrinth of grim uniformity that stretches as far as the eye can see.
This photo was also taken in 2011. The sunflowers have since been painted over in favor of a diagonal stripe. I think. I was over there a few months ago, and I noticed that they were gone, but I can’t clearly remember what was there instead. Forgettable uniformity has won out yet again.
Over the past year, I’ve discovered more treasures. This one can be found far away from the city center, on a ruined building near the Danube. This beauty, and those that follow, are the result of the Bratislava Street Art Festival, which takes place every June.
I was unable to go this year, but I managed to locate the back street where the artists worked their magic.
Each year, the public transport company lets the artists paint a tram. They opted for an intricate black and white cityscape this year. It rattles past my place several times a day. I regret that I didn’t get a photo of last year’s prismatic masterpiece. I don’t see it around anymore. I fear that it’s been plastered over with the obnoxious ads that cover many of the trams. Yet another reminder that street art is, above all, transient.