Scandinavia is famous for a great number of things. Vikings, great fish, socialism. They’re also home to a young street art festival that’s been steadily growing in size, scope, and ambition for the past couple of years. Started in 2014 in Malmö, Sweden, the Artscape Street Art Festival creates new public art to compete with the billboards and advertisements that are scattered throughout the city. To use their own words: “Great art shouldn’t be confined to only galleries and museums!”
The festival began as Scandinavia’s only street art festival and focused on giving space to artists from around the world. When the festival was in full swing during the summer months of July and August, you could find a great number of artists from around the world. Australia’s Rone, for example, could be seen painting a giant mural on the side of a 12-storey apartment building. The UK’s Cityzen Kane was there as well, along with Sweden’s own Yash. The size and scope of the murals varied greatly, but in the two years that Artscape was in Malmö, the amount of visible and beautiful street art increased substantially.
Artscape, the namesake nonprofit organization for the festival, doesn’t just put on one event per year, however, they are active in Sweden and Europe all year long. In fact, they recently unveiled a brand new art project that “remixes” one of Malmö’s oldest landmarks: the famous griffin statue in the city’s square. Constructed in 1437, the griffin was a gift from King Eric XIII to the city, whose coat of arms includes a griffin. Artscape, thinking that 600 years was long enough before doing some a little different, hired three artists to create a new approach to the statue.
The three artists, Zadok, Christina Angelina, and Bless, used a variation of the Exquisite Corpse technique, popularized by the surrealist movement, to each create a component of the new Malmö griffin. Each artist took a turn creating a new part of the griffin, with the next artist then adding their concept afterwards. According to Artscape, they “decided to add a humble human to symbolise the people of Malmö. After creating three striking characters, each in a totally different style, the different segments of the wall were switched around to form three new incarnations of the city’s symbol.”
The Artscape Street Art Festival moved for 2016 to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city next to Stockholm, and has expanded in kind. With double the population over Malmö, Gothenberg represents a brand new canvas on which some of the world’s, and especially Europe’s, greatest street artists can create, collaborate, and share with people around the world. In just two short years, Artscape transformed Malmö. Now Gothenberg could experience a similar transformation.