Photo Essay: Street art in Barcelona

Photos by Joe Thomas

7 Tort stands in front of a portrait in his studio that was inspired by a photograph of a homeless man. He has painted portraits based on photographs by photojournalists including Steve McCurry.  “I think that we are in this [economic] crisis because everyone is working in the wrong place,” he said. Tort wants more people to work on something that inspires them instead of just for money. Through ARTistLOVE, he hopes to help more people find their passions through art. When people join ARTistLOVE, he wants them to know, “I am just the seed, I am not the boss of anything. Your not working for me you’re working for you.”

BARCELONA–It’s impossible to ignore the street art scattered throughout the city of Barcelona. It varies from crude tags, to storefront advertisements, to intricate murals. The artists behind these pieces have different motivations for spraying. Some want to spread their own personal message, some get paid to do it and some just want to make their mark.

Ferran Tort, 26, a Barcelona-based street artist, has cycled through all of these motivations over the 14 years he has painted the city. But because of new laws tightening regulations on street art and graffiti, he started to regularly get in trouble with police. As a result, Tort shifted his work toward designing apparel, skateboards, neighborhood and indoor murals and even to other countries where graffiti laws are more relaxed. So far, he has painted his way through five other continents to make his mark.

His current inspiration is painting faces. In an attempt to make the streets more connected to their residents, Tort paints the faces of community members in the neighborhoods where they live. He’s also gone legit: He started a nonprofit four years ago called ARTistLOVE, which is focused on giving children ages 4 to 6, who have limited resources, access to art. ARTistLOVE has allowed him to hold workshops for children in Senegal, Thailand, Brazil and India. Tort says ARTistLOVE doesn’t need to be focused on graffiti but can be any form of creative expression. He recently returned from a trip to India and will soon leave to travel throughout Europe to visit other communities of ARTistLOVE that have been independently created throughout Europe.

“I think the world should be different,” said Tort from his parents’ house – also his studio – in Barcelona, “and I am working every day to spread [ARTistLOVE] to more countries.”

Click on any image below to view the gallery and read Tort’s story behind each piece.


While Tort’s murals are primarily faces, the street art that dominates Barcelona offers a wide range of subjects and styles. However, regardless of how well it is painted, anyone who sprays graffiti not pre-approved by the city, or not on one of eight walls the city allows people to tag, can face fines. There have been broadening restrictions that seek to unify the look of the city by cracking down on street art. Before, many artists were able to support themselves by getting paid to paint advertisements on storefronts. But five years ago, a law was passed that imposed a fine of up to 750 euro, or $831, on anyone who paints a storefront, even with the permission of the owners. This has made it more difficult for small businesses to hire street artists to draw murals on their stores. Below are some examples of street art on storefronts that would now be subject to fines.

Click on any image below to view the gallery. 

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