When I was a child, one of the rules of good manners was “don’t write on the walls” and, if you got caught, you had an issue. Even as an adult, to tell the truth, it’s better not to do that … unless you are an artist! In that case, we are talking about Street Art.
A walk in the center of Palermo as well as allowing you to see splendid monuments, also reveals a large number of paintings on the city walls. Besides writings and scribbles, and declarations of eternal love that have nothing pleasant if not for the possible recipient of the message, there are large works made by real artists.
One of the most famous is the portrait of Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone, the two magistrates killed by the mafia who are now city icons. Their smiling conversation has been perpetuated on the high wall of a building next to the Cala marina by Rosk and Loste who were inspired by a famous photo by Tony Gentile. The work was commissioned by the National Association of Magistrates and this makes us understand how street art is now accepted. Graffiti creators no longer have to hide, quite the opposite, as their art is broadly requested.
In the last twenty years this phenomenon has become increasingly evident in Palermo and today there are even guided tours in the old center that touch the works scattered among alleys and dilapidated houses (Palermo is perhaps the only city in Europe that still bears the signs of WWII … and does not seem willing to heal them).
By following the guides you can learn about the techniques used, the idea that moved the artist, and, one street after the other, you’ll see how different hands have left their mark on old walls and ugly popular buildings, which have become canvases for a new kind of art that doesn’t just speak to young people.
The sources of inspiration, of course, are the most diverse. Graffiti can be an interpretation of iconic works of art, such as the Triumph of Death kept in the Gallery of Palazzo Abatellis, which inspired the crowd of figures painted by Mbre Fats; or Palermo saints, variously represented, such as Sant’Erasmo, painted by the aforementioned Palminteri, and Santa Rosalia, created by Tvboy.
It is possible to find street art not only in the old center but also in many other districts, with XL paintings covering entire facades. The works of Igor Scalisi Palminteri, one of the most active street artists in Palermo, decorate the sides of tall buildings without ever losing proportion, giving a touch of color in unexpected places such as the Sperone, a working-class district at the eastern outskirts of the city.
Then there are the works that are born precisely to give the sign of the renewal of an area of the city and this is the case of the murals that adorn Danissini, a popular neighborhood of ordinary houses that quite surprisingly extends a few steps from the splendor of the Arab-Norman palaces and churches. A poor neighborhood that in recent times has been involved in a social redevelopment project, which is also expressed in graffiti.
One of the first paintings, “The sharing” created by Portuguese artist Guido Palmadessa in 2018, sums up the basic idea that animates those who are dealing with this neighborhood: You cannot remain indifferent but you must participate in the common project of rebirth.