Graffiti artists tackle Greece’s financial crisis


Graffiti in Athens used to be all about football, politics or teenage crushes – silly enough to be laughed off, rare enough to be frowned upon.

Now, it's hard to find a building, private or public, whose walls are not blighted by black, red, blue (that's usually the neo-Nazis) or silver spray-paint. Most seem devoid of any purpose, other than that of a dog marking its territory.

But amid it, meticulously-executed, thought-provoking gems can be found. Some were commissioned by property owners sick of cleaning scrawlings off their wall: They appreciated the art and hoped it would deter taggers.

And over the past five years of Greece's economic depression, more and more paintings comment on the country's financial and social woes.

One such artwork is in the central Exarcheia district, an anarchist and leftist hangout with more than its fair share of defaced buildings. Flanked by the shuttered windows of an abandoned old house, a haggard face supported in its hands looks out of a wall. On the crepitating stucco below, a battered 5-euro banknote is painted.

The artist, who uses the name Wild Drawing, says the mural can be seen as mirroring the lot of most Greeks during the austerity years. Just down the same street, he has stenciled a fake road sign with a little car in the blue and white Greek colours tumbling off a crumbling euro currency sign into the water. It's called "Keep Away."

On another Exarcheia wall, artist N_Grams has used pages from newspaper classified employment ads to form a banknote. He said the work dates to last year, when he was looking through classified ads himself to find a job.

An old advertising board on Pireos Road, which leads from the city center to the port of Piraeus, now reads: "Europe without Greece is like a party without drugs." The artist, Cacao Rocks, says the idea dates back three years. "I have changed, I don't take drugs any more or go to parties, but Europe just won't grow up," he said.