Charming Sofia Outdoors

Charming Sofia | Urban Art

Graffiti, Urban Art and the hidden gems of Sofia

I believe that when done properly, Sreet art is a unique way to enhance the urban environment.  Although Sofia can offer some genuinely beautiful spots, we also have plenty of grey in our city’s landscape. Put a pinch of color, add several teaspoons of insightful ideas and a (spray) sprinkle with talent to turn a mundane city spot into an exciting new discovery.

“Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.” ― Carla H. Krueger

An art form in its late 20s

Before 1989, for obvious reasons, the Bulgarian state had a complete monopoly over urban esthetics. Technically, the history of graffiti goes back less than 3 decades and urban art in the contemporary sense of the word has become more conspicuous within the last decade.

Redhead Explorer
I was lucky to have this photo of me taken within the 24-hour window in which the government left the monument intact.

 

I was lucky enough to see the most (in)famous piece of urban art in Sofia in the past decade. One fine day the Monument of the Soviet Army saw welcomed the dawn with a controversial superhero makeover. In a majorly publicised (and poorly understood) stroke of ironical genius, our socialist past met its Americanized comic hero nemesis.

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While many called this an act of vandalism, I consider it a brilliant social commentary with a lot of cultural (self)irony. Locals are well aware that The Monument is the spot where all skaters and bladers hang out. Whether you have American superheroes painted on the statues or not, the kids hanging out at the halfpipe in front of the monument look oh-so-American in their ubiquitous Vans or Chucks, Volcom T-shirts and snapback hats. The only difference is that unlike in American parks, Sofia’s outdoor locations are 101% beer friendly.

Street Gems

Urban art is transient. Very few works (mostly giant commissioned murals) last for several years or more.

That is why I love to take photos of the little gems I stumble upon while walking around in the city (Note: there are many great examples from other places in Bulgaria, especially my beloved Plovdiv, but they deserve a separate post on their own).

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Some art pieces are no longer there: like the Little Prince gates near my old appartment …

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…Or this wall of a construction site that was once a living museum of graffitti…And is currently transformed into a fancy glass and steel office building:

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Into the light

Although Grafitti art is usually considered on the legal fringe, an increasing number of initiatives use murals, graffiti and street art as a legitimate way to improve the urban environment, promote a cause or even endorse a relevant brand (i.e. the dye producers who put their logo at the bottom right corner of this nice mural below).

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Underground Cinema

I remember stumbling upon this Underpass in the summer. I was thrilled to see a place with a concept: dedicated to movie history and decorated with the faces of celluloid legends.

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See how to find the underpass in Google Maps.

Sofia’s Science Underpass

The newest addition to the urban landscape is the Science Underpass: space dedicated to scientific pursuits with great drawings and educational information. I found it by accident: the weather was warm and nice so I decided to jump off the tram and walk to work.

Imagine my surprise when I went down the underpass and saw this! As an aspiring Cog Sci researcher, I get very excited about campaigns aiming to popularize science. So after stumbling upon this place, I was on Cloud #9 during the entire day!

I did not know about this initiative, but a friend told me the place was done by ПОдЛЕЗНО: а non-formal group of young people volunteering to improve the urban environment. A great cause which deserves a lot of support and respect!

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See how to find the underpass in Google Maps.

 Nat Geo about Bulgarian Urban Culture

Click on the image below to see a short documentary on Bulgarian urban culture on National Geographic | Explore Bulgaria (the video is only in Bulgarian).

Urban Culture

Disclaimer: The gallery in this post is far from complete: most of the images here were captured along my usual daily routes: there is plenty more throughout the city. In fact, if you have photos of your own: feel free to share them in the comments section. I would be happy to discover new artworks!

 

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