Welcome to Barranco. This irresistible barrio (neighbourhood) was built up in the 19th century as a beach destination for Lima’s aristocracy, hence its elegant rows of houses, the colonial villas, the art deco details, the neat lines of palm trees, the rainbow colours. Ironically, it is now known as Lima’s bohemian district… Filled with sweet little shops and cafés, art galleries and street art, it proves vibrant with creativity. And street art.
Murals, here, are more than just hypnotic graffiti. They’re a statement. Back in 2015, Mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda Lossio, ordered over 60 frescoes to be covered in yellow paint. Officially? They were said to go against UNESCO’s protection of Lima’s Historical Centre. In reality? Some were openly political… The decision did not go unnoticed. Rather than chancing a wave of more flamboyant still paintings, the district of Barranco organized a street art competition Las Paredes Hablan (the walls speak). The idea was clever: it would soothe public opinion, offer street artists chosen spaces to express themselves and boost a few neglected buildings in the process.
Many of the 15 designs chosen back then are still there. But really, these days, street art flourishes fully in Barranco, as much as it does in Shoreditch. We’re not talking hidden gems here but full-scale masterpieces… The Google Map above lists the main places to find them and the list below gives you a little information on the ones I saw during my visit. Not all are signed, some are made by collective of urban artists (Los Salvajes, DMJC, 93) nor is it easy to dig much information online. If you have any anecdote or know the missing name of an artist, do get in touch!
CENTRO INTEGRAL DEL ADULTO MAYOR (CIAM)
Dream Japanese style fish, a palette of blue scale giving the impression of waves, complex flowers in tropical colour… This mural was painted by the local community: it’s clear they poured their heart into it.
LIBRARY WAGON, PARQUE DE LA FAMILIA
A Peruvian version of the cat bus cat bus in Totoro. This reclaimed train wagon, in fact a mini-library, was painted by Los Salvajes, a collective of contemporary Peruvian urban artists counting three members Nemo, Jimbo and Roberto Peremese.
E. SACHS INSTITUTO DE ARTES VISUALES (ON AV. MIGUEL GRAU)
This stunning mosaic of fish was originally part of a larger mural, now painted over. Yandy Graffer (known as Abraham Portocarrero in the street art world) often joined his grandfather, an artisanal fisherman, on his boat as a child. The sea is a returning theme throughout his portfolio.
AV. MIGUEL GRAU
You will find a mix and match of styles along the avenue: a blue mandala by San Francisco artist Rye Quartz, an infinity of cats by Lima Loves… The star of the show, though, is a large piece by JADE Rivera, an artist so well established it has not one but 2 art galleries in the neighbourhood. The mural below, named Understanding and Protection, was awarded the first place in the Barranco competition. The transparent bird mask, often worn by his characters, highlights their attachment to nature and wish to preserve it. His paintings always have a heart-warming quality – you will see quite a few around.
JIRÓN DOMEYER STREET
The three murals in a row, at the beginning of the street are well worth a look. The first one, Las amazonas (The Amazons), was painted by local artist Carlos Pinao, who often integrates Maori style patterns in his work. The second, by Ale Wendorff, offers a glimpse of her shamanesque, mysterious vision of life. The lines flow like waves in her images, often creating a myriad of eyes: you will see another example on Oraya Pasaje. The last one is by MUCHO, who favours explosions of colours.
A long mural stretches along the wall as you turn the corner from Av. Miguel Grau: a mermaid sipping wine, a sea cat creature, waves turning into flowers… This thrilling storyboard proves both hypnotising and daring. This one is by Conrad Florez, part of the collective of urban artists DMJC and also makes designs for Sullen Art Collective, a tattoo lifestyle apparel brand.
28 DE JULIO STREET
So many full-size murals here! Coming from Av. Miguel Grau, you will first see two deities, Inca meets Transformers style – a collaboration between Lion Lima and Spove.
Further on is the portrait of an ageing woman, shattered into mirror shards against an abstract background. She is reaching out to a torn photograph, symbolising her child, in find a mosaic of faces. This piece by N.N. Decertor refers to the families affected by Peru’s bloody civil war in the 1980s and 1990s: of the estimated 16,000 people killed, only 1,300 remains of victims have been found and returned to their loved ones. A common sense of loss unites the country. Decertor’s designs always stops the viewers in their tracks, the social issues weaved into the design forcing them into reflection.
The happy, fairy-tale scene was painted by Los Salvajes (see the cat-wagon-library above). Get closer to it and you will notice lots of little details, a discreet heart in one of the eyes, tiny insects on the leaves. The next one, by Geraluz and Werk, is called Real eyes realize: the intense gaze of a tiger blends into a human face. The fact that the pattern is reproduced several times in a row makes that piece particularly hypnotising, you simply cannot escape its scrutiny.
There are a couple more pieces down the streets, smaller ones. The mythical female creature is by Bronik, a Peruvian artist who now lives in Barcelona. The tattooed blue skin, double eyes, vibrant hair and contrasted hues are her signature. She always includes a few symbols linking back to her home country. Don’t miss the JADE Rivera one, tucked into a little courtyard. Note the harmony of colours, always, between the character and animal at his side… The transparent mask seems to turn human into spiritual creature, a guide with a special connection with nature.
AV. PEDRO DE OSMA
No need to go very far, these two full size murals by Pesimo are a few steps from 28 de Julio Street. Amazing change of style from one side of the avenue to the other! Each slight vibration in the water, the angles of the faces… Colours and emotions really come through his paintings.
THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS
Travel guide books present it as a must see. Yes and no. The construction itself is rather basic. It is built over the pretty Bajada de Banos street (once a ravine) which goes all the way down to the sea. Tradition says that those, who make a wish and then crosses for the first time without taking a breath, will have his wish fulfilled… Worth a try, right? From there, you will have a perfect view over another of JADE Rivera‘s murals, which bears the inscription Mi primer amor tenía doce años y las uñas negras (my first love was 12 years old and had black/dirty nails), a line taken from Peruvian poet Martín Adán’s book A cardboard house. No transparent beak this time, the character’s face is his own mask, revealing a whole universe inside him: dreams? Freedom? Go down the stairs and you will find a door. Behind it is a sweet courtyard willed with green plants and the artist’s tiny, heart melting shop. You will find a second, larger one at the corner of Melgar and Ml. Mariscal Ramón Castilla.
STAIRS IN ORAYA PASAJE
Filled from top to bottom! It all started with Las Paredes Hablan (the walls speak) competition: a number of the murals were painted here.
See the few words on the first picture, on the left? The full sentence Pensar con el corazon (think with your heart) is by Elliot Tupac: a Peruvian screen-printing and lettering artist who pioneered was is called chicha art. If you are familiar with South America, you may know it as a fermented corn drink. It also is, in Peru, as music genre: think folk tunes energised with electric guitars, synthetisers and quite a beat to it. It was a cultural revolution. It also brought a class gap: this is street music, too loud, too vibrant. Chica posters, which appeared in the 80s, is the painted version of that fireworks feeling. Being well versed in calligraphy and screen printing, Tupac elevated it to masterpieces, now commissioned all over the world.
It’s impossible to detail all the pieces in that street. Limeno Yandy Graffer (mentioned further up) is the street artist behind the fisherman and his horse. Note the origami style boat on his forehead, one of his trade marks.You might recognise Ale Wendorff’s (mentioned further up too) style in the woman holding a child. Nobody quite agrees in the number of eyes in that fresco… What else? The dancing animal in gold and flame colours (a favourite background for selfies) was added by Eduardo Yaguas, a historian also recognised as one of the authors of reference today for comics and illustration in Latin America. The surf piece is by Renzo Ortega who started his artistic carreer in Peru before immigrating to the US. His illustrations often reflect his experience of life as a migrant, the crossing of one culture to another. The last one, at the very top of the stairs, by Collectivo MDH has a lovely story: it portrays Mrs Victoria, an aged woman who had never seen the sea, her moved, dreamy gaze captured at that precise moment…
BAJADA DE BANOS STREET (FROM ORAYA PASAJE TO THE SEASIDE)
A few pieces on that side, though mostly not signed. The Picasso like one is a collaboration between 3 artists. Pesimo (mentioned further up) very often works with Entes (in Lima and all around the world). Chilean artist Eaile (his name, Elias, backwards) joined in on this one.
EL GATO TULIPAN (BAJADA DE BANOS, 350)
This cultural association combining an art gallery, musical space and café really did steal our heart. Make sure you order a hot drink and make your way to the rooftop: there are a few vintage sofas and tables there, cats delighted to be cuddles and a good view on street art…
MIRADOR CATALINA RECAVARREN
Another good spot with a view of the stairs. There are a few restaurants there too, bonus!
BAJADA DE BANOS STREET (FROM ORAYA PASAJE TO AV. SAN MARTIN)
Coming from the Bridge of Sighs, you will first see the bridge on which Elliot Tupac (see Chicha art, mentioned further up) painted Equilibrio (balance). Entes and Pésimo (mentioned further up) must have been rather fond of the location as they did a few pieces here, the most iconic being the under of the bridge depicting a wide range of character, some in daylight, the other on the other side of the world, enjoying a starry night. Their friend Saile added its own mural an enigmatic fairy tale featuring a frog turning into two beautiful women, twins, it seems. The girl with purple hair is by Oz Montania is a Paraguayan street artist wo has greatly helped put his country’s street art on the map with his multi-facetted compositions. Just a heads up: the stunning variety of backgrounds in that areas makes it a fashion photoshoots magnet.
Seen any new murals? Let us know and we will add them to the Google Map!