Discover Your Backyard - Aberdeen's Striking Street Art



Aberdeen is well known for its grey granite buildings and the grey North Sea that coldly laps up its beaches. However, there has been an explosion of colour and vibrancy throughout the city over this past five years, through a series of street art initiatives, powered by an assortment of talented local artists and the Aberdeen Inspired group. The Nuart Aberdeen Festival has stolen many of the headlines these past few years, but there have been several other initiatives that have contributed to making Aberdeen a world renowned centre for the best that street art has to offer. Join us as we give a taste of Aberdeen’s attention grabbing and thought provoking creations.



At Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if exploring Aberdeen’s street art appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating Aberdeen’s attractions and its colourful murals, or indeed, a tour of Scotland in general.



Painted Doors


The Painted Doors project was initiated in July 2016 and has brought new life and colour to many of Aberdeen’s neglected city centre doors. Curated by local artist Mary Butterworth, the doors are concentrated mainly around Langstane Place, Windmill Brae and The Green. The project continued in 2017 and 2018, with around 40 doors now having been painted by local artists, with each design being unique and eye catching. A map of the doors can be found here: http://bit.ly/2hczhjb



Nuart Aberdeen 2017


Aberdeen’s twin city of Stavanger, Norway, has held the very successful Nuart street art festival since the early 2000s, so it was fitting that their concept was copied across the North Sea in 2017. The festival aimed to provide a platform for local, national and international artists to showcase their work through a series of site-specific murals, installations, interventions, and temporary exhibitions. Eleven artists brought the city centre to life, including the German art duo Herakut, who arguably created the festival’s most iconic work on the Aberdeen Market building, and Polish M-city, who painted a large mural on Harriet Street. Alongside the large art pieces, there were also smaller, complimentary art, from the likes of the Belgian artist Jaune and his stencilled garbage men!



Nuart Aberdeen 2018


Aberdonians may have been unsure what to expect when the Nuart Aberdeen Festival launched in 2017, but by 2018, there was great excitement to find out what was going to be created during in the second instalment of the festival. I think it is safe to say that no one was disappointed, with many of the murals becoming city centre landmarks loved by the locals. This was emphasised by the extremely successful tours held immediately following the end of the festival, with great crowds of locals and visitors alike being guided around these magnificent pieces of art. One thing which struck me most, was the great range of the artistic mediums used – Bordalo II, for example, used discarded plastics to create his unicorn, while Carrie Reichardt used mosaics to focus on inspirational women from Aberdeen and Scotland, and, for my personal favourites, Bortusk Leer painted his colourful cartoon monsters onto newspaper!


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Nuart Aberdeen 2019


Aberdeen’s Nuart festival had quickly established itself as a globally acclaimed celebration of street art, and reinforced this reputation by luring many international artistic luminaries to the city in 2019. The likes of Strok from Norway, Axel Void from Spain and Evol from Germany descended on Aberdeen, along with many British or UK-based artists, such as Helen Bur and SMUG.



Nuart Aberdeen 2021


After the disappointing postponement of the 2020 festival, we were treated to pieces from five world-renowned artists during the summer of 2021. The festival is usually conducted over an intense couple of weeks, but this year the painting was spread over June, July and into August. There was a little bit of secrecy surrounding the exact days when the artists would be working, which was in an effort to reduce the likelihood of crowds gathering during these uncertain times. In some ways this actually led to even more excitement, at least for myself, as it was like an artistic scavenger hunt, trying to discover where the artists were and catch them mid-creation!



Release The Pressure


The precursor to the Nuart festival and perhaps the event that opened the eyes of many in Aberdeen to the importance and potential of street art, was 2016’s ‘Release The Pressure’ event. Union Terrace Gardens was a much loved, but neglected area of Aberdeen’s city centre, and it was here that a series of colourful and vibrant pieces of artwork were created to breathe new life into this public space. 2021 is seeing a much-needed renovation of Union Terrace Gardens, but we are yet to see if these dazzling pieces will be retained. Let’s hope they do!



Look Again Festival


Look Again is a creative unit based at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. A number of events and exhibitions are held throughout the year, but the most eye catching for me was the Love at First Sight installation created by Morag Myerscough in 2019. This temporary structure was part pavilion and part stage, encircling the historic Mercat Cross in Castlegate, with around 30 local volunteers hand painting the installation.


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East Green & The Tunnels


With the impressive Union Street having been built over a series of arches in the early 1800's, the area beneath Aberdeen’s main street has always felt a little off limits. None more so than the area around the East Green and down into The Tunnels (Carnegie’s Brae), which has always had a certain degree of edginess. Today, however, this area seems to have taken that reputation and made it a positive. This subterranean passageway and backstreet access road is now full of vibrant street art, with paintings, paste ups and social commentaries. The area also seems to renew itself rapidly, with new pieces replacing old in an ongoing fashion. What will happen when the Aberdeen Market building is demolished (one side of the East Green), I’m not quite sure. Will it still be an hotspot for colour, political art and humour? Watch this space.



Business Premises


As street art has become acceptable and appreciated, there now seems to be a drive by businesses to commission works from these artists to brighten up their premises and provoke interest. Years ago, a good signwriter would be in high demand from shops, and it seems that there has now been an evolution of this need, where artists more known for their street art are getting assignments. One of the biggest proponents of art in the business space has been the local brewery and pub chain BrewDog, with all of their locations having some sort of eye catching art work, often by their once in-house graffiti artist Craig Fisher. There have also been undertakings by Aberdeen-born artist KMG, producing pieces for Dr. Martens on Union Street (now closed) and the Nigg Bay Golf Club. One of my personal favourites is the artwork around the entrance to Arch 420 on Palmerston Road. It will be interesting to see how this trend develops.


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Skeps


A relatively new addition, adding a touch of colour and culture to Aberdeen’s city centre, has been the portrait artworks of local artist Skeps. Certainly one to keep an eye out for and there will hopefully be some new pieces appearing in the future.



Conclusion


Street art has become an integral part of city culture around the world, and Aberdeen has been quick to spot its potential and has grabbed its opportunity to become a must-visit location for anyone interested in this art form. The creations around Aberdeen have delighted and provoked in equal measure. During our travels, we have always sought out a city’s street art. When visiting places as diverse as Houston, Łódź (in Poland) and Ghent, we have always been amazed at the talent and imagination of street artists. However, we’d have to honestly say that we have not visited a city quite like Aberdeen, where the quality, quantity and variety of street art is so easily accessible within a ten-minute radius of the city centre. So if you have even only a passing interest street art, make sure to put Aberdeen, Scotland, on your itinerary!


Let us know in the comments below which artwork was your favourite.


At Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if exploring Aberdeen’s street art appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating Aberdeen’s attractions and its colourful murals, or indeed, a tour of Scotland in general.


Join us next time when our family adventures continue as we discover the ancient stone circles of Aberdeenshire. Until then, happy reading and safe travels.

Barry

Contact Us: tailoritineraries@gmail.com


Tailor-Made Itineraries creates one-of-a-kind bespoke self-guided travel itineraries for adventurous and curious travelers.


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