Barcelona’s shining attractions include cool cafes, contemporary galleries, designer shops and endless open spaces to watch the world go by. But among the dumpsters and discarded cardboard boxes, is some of the world’s best street art.
The city has emerged as an unlikely leader in urban art, being compared with Berlin, New York and Sao Paolo, and attracting urban art A-listers.
More than a dozen of the city centre’s laneways are an explosion of colour, with vast murals, stencils and paper “paste-ups” occupying almost every hidden corner. In the celebrated hotspots, you will easily find dozens of visitors, young and old, wandering the street as if it were a gallery, pausing to consider each artwork in turn.
Even the stencil work, a staple of contemporary street art the world over, is remarkably rich and detailed. Local artists create layers of paint in their pieces to create extraordinary depth and texture.
Works like these have given Barcelona an enviable urban art reputation. Attracting tourists from all over the world.
Yet, in a paradoxical twist, the city’s anti-graffiti laws are some of the strictest in the Western world.
Outside of the pieces specifically authorised by local councils and property owners, street art is illegal. Merely having possession of a spray can is an offence, while graffiti vandals caught in the act can face fines of up to 3000 euros. With police stop-and-search actions now common throughout the city, it is riskier than ever for street artists to ply their trade.
The Regulations Pertaining to Painting in Public Barcelona
Article 19: Foundations of the Regulation
1. This regulation in this chapter is based on the right to enjoy the urban areas while also being expected to keep them clean and be polite.
2. Without prejudice of other infractions already forseen in the Ordinance of the Uses of the Urban Landscape, all graffiti, paint and other types of making dirty and ugly devaluate the public or private civil law. They also visually degrade the area, affecting the lives of the people who live there.
3. The obligation to abstain from soiling the environment in any way is based in the idea of avoiding visual contamination. Therefore it is independent and compatible with the infractions, including penal, based on the protection of the patrimony, both public and private.
Section 1: Graffiti, Paint and Other Graphic Expressions
Article 20: Rules of Conduct
1. It is forbidden to do any kind of graffiti, paint, writing, inscription, or scrawl with any type of material (ink, paint, organic material or similar), or scratching the surface of any urban element interior or exterior. This also applies to urban equipment, military equipment, infrastructure, any element of public service such as public transportation, trees, gardens and any other public place. The artistic murals are permissible only if you have municipal or a proprietary authorization.
2. Anyone who wants to put graffiti or paint on private property that can be seen from public places must obtain permission from the Government.
3. The organizers of any public celebration whether it is cultural, celebration, fun, sporting in nature, will be expected to take care during the celebration so that the public space is not degraded in any way by the celebration. Should any of the conducts described in #1 take place, the organizers are required to notify the authorities.
4. If someone under 18 years old commits any of these infractions because of negligence of their parent, guardian, or tutor that parent, guardian or tutor will be directly and totally responsible for the child’s conduct.
1. Any who are caught attempting the misconducts described in the previous article will be be sanctioned and pay a fine from 120 to 750 euros. Unless the crime constitutes a more serious infraction.
2. Violating the following spaces will be considered serious and sanctioned from 750.01 to 1500 euros:
a. Any types of transportation, both public or privately owned, including vehicles, stop signs and other elements installed in public spaces.
b. Elements of public parks or gardens
c. On all types of real estate, both public and privately owned, only excused if it is almost too small to be seen.
d. All street and road signs, and any urban element of which damage or defacement creates partial or total loss of function.
3. Violating any type of monument or protected building is a very serious sanction and will be fined from 1500.01 to 3000 euros
22: Specific Interventions
1. In accordance with the previous articles, the agents of authority will confiscate the materials or mediums violators use for defacement.
2. If it is possible to erase the defacement and return it to its original state, the agents of authority will make the infractor clean the area. The violator will also be expected to face the imposition of sanction by the Government.
3. The City Council will clean the area and repair the damage caused by the infraction, and the responsible persons will be expected to pay for the cleaning. Independent of the of the imposition of corresponding sanctions for their actions.
4. If the infractor is under 18 years of age the agents of authority will hold their guardian, parent or tutor responsible as stated in the 4th point of chapter 20 above.
5. When the graffiti or paint constitutes a patrimonial infraction as stated in article 626 of the Penal Code, the agents of authority will notify the judicial authorities, independent of the sanctioning process.