Dublin is rarely one of those cities that springs to mind when it comes to street art. New York, Bristol, London, Buenos Aires and Melbourne to name but a few are great advocates of the painted street form. But Dublin has seen a quiet surgance of late and now boasts a formidable collection, albeit in the face of much adversity. It’s time to add Dublin to your street art bucket list.
Loop The names that grace the walls of the city have therefore started to become familiar. Dublin based Fink, Subset, Dan Leo, Maser, Aches and James Earley are responsible for a substantial amount of the art we see in the city and international artists such as Artur Bordalo have graced the streets of Ireland with their talent.
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The troubles with the Street Art of Dublin
However an undercurrent exists beneath the art, a political one. Dublin Corporation and the artists are at loggerheads. Any changes to the facade of a building requires planning permission, even with the consent of the property owner, and also the city’s listed buildings can not have their structures altered. This flies in the face of street art, an ever changing medium, where murals are often changed twice in the time it takes to obtain planning permission.
Subset & the Grey Area Project
From this war of words the Grey Area project was born, a movement to paint murals quicker than the corporation could paint them grey. Dublin corporation are only following the mandated laws, and as such are not the villains either. A new era needs to be ushered in therefore. Behind this push stand Subset and as the spokespeople of the Grey Area Project, they call on the local government to be less hypocritical, as on one hand they are seen to support art but are prohibitive to the cultivation, evolution and progression of the public art culture.
This whole saga stemmed from the famed Stormzy mural which was removed upon order by the corporation. A stark grey wall therefore now stands in its place. Alas Stormzy was not alone in its removal, and as a result the battle remains far from over for the artists. Subsets own Gracie mural in the suburb of Rathmines has also faded to grey. As I write this, the Horseboy mural is under threat from the courts, as is the David Attenborough Mural (with a message about climate change). It has had an order issued demanding its removal.
The curse of Dublin’s development
Dublin seems to be on a jet propelled ride towards modernity. Any area that is deemed rundown or in need of urban renewal, is levelled in favour of new offices and hotels. The cost is as yet untold on the city, but one is already been seen. Above all those areas being upgraded are often where artists bring their own brand of beauty. Therefore the city is finding itself with less and less public canvases and some great art has fallen by the wayside.
One of Dublin’s most beloved and artistic murals was the squirrel by Artur Bordalo. It highlighted the plight of the indigenous red squirrel, which is in danger of extinction at the hands of the North American native grey squirrel. The mural itself was created using thrash found around the city, including for instance a bizarrely placed bicycle. But the mural fell foul to Dublin’s current preoccupation of building as many hotels as is possible. It no longer graces Dublin’s fine city centre.
And yet art conquers all
Dublin’s street art scene remains at the mercy of our prohibitive laws, but it nonetheless has flourished of late. Walls city wide are a constant reminder creativity will triumph over perceived philistinism. Street art in Dublin is alive and well in 2019 in fact.
As I set out six months ago to document and photograph the Dublin scene, I didn’t quite imagine the amount of art that I would find. Many kilometres and some worn shoes later I feel as if I am able to do justice to the art scene. In addition, I’ve endeavoured to separate the art into manageable tours. Bear in mind street art changes as quickly as the minds of its artists and I’ve tried to keep this blog as up to date as possible too. Furthermore, I imagine this is a blog which will see its fair share of edits with time.
Suggested Dublin Street art Walking Tours
To get a geographical sense of Dublin, it is in fact split by the river Liffey, with the area to north commonly known as the North side and the area to the south known as southside. Altogether very imaginative. The Northsiders are traditionally more working class, with the Southsiders more upper class, but those lines have become well crossed over the years. It makes for good banter between Dubs nonetheless.
It is also an ideal way to split the city for the purpose of creating individual tours. Where better to start than in Dublin’s social hub Temple Bar.
Temple Bar Street Art Tour
Kicking off on Fleet Street and the corner of Tesco with Subset’s Don’t Worry Be Happy mural. One of several pieces supporting good mental health health throughout the city, its therefore a good attitude and place to start any tour. From here follow Price’s Lane to the first of the Love The Lanes, an Anna Doran led initiative to bring colour to the small back lanes of Temple Bar. One of the highlights of Temple Bar is the Blooms Hotel, which is painted head to toe by James Earley and celebrates Ulysses, that near impossible to read Joycean novel. Scythe your way through Temple Bars narrow cobbled streets, via Curved Street, before finding Love Lane where the walls and pavements are a canvas.
The Love Lane Temple Bar
Angiery Camden Core
If time is short and there is only one area that you can visit to sample Dublin’s street art, then this is it. Stretching from Dame Street to the suburb of Portobello it is in fact a treasure trove of murals. It’s also the best area to go for a pint in this humble writers opinion, if you want to meet some Dubs and not just tourists.
The tour begins much as the Temple Bar one left off, on Dame Street. From Palace Street take the first left down the ally way to connect to Georges St and your first mural. Further on you should see the ever insensitive sign, “Why Go Bald” which is a leftover from a hair transplant company from decades ago. It is your marker to take you down Dame Lane and some fine art though. Drury st will bring you back to Aungier St and principal area for Dublin’s street art.
Liberty Lane Dublin 2
Liberty Lane, located to the rear of Whelans Pub is in fact an ever changing canvas frequented by Dan Leo, Aches, ADW, Brutto and others. As a result it’s a must on any Dublin street tour. The adjoining Camden Row is a favourite of Subset, and takes us back to Camden Street, whose side streets are sure to preoccupy you with even more works.
Perhaps this article is timely. One location in Dublin has always been a patron of street arts, good street food, hip hop and dance music. But now it closed at the end of October 2019. As a message painted on the outside now asks “where will the art go?” It still there; for the moment. Consequently if you are in Dublin don’t miss the opportunity to see Dublin’s greatest facility for street artists. A great editorial by Una Mullally in the Irish Times highlighted the once again poor planning process which has taken a cultural treasure from us.
The art is constantly been recycled here and up and coming artists often use the walls here to hone their skills. Maser set up shop here eleven years ago for example. One of the most evocative murals the city has seen, graced the walls of the Bernard Shaw. It was a portrait of Savita Halappanavar by Aches, with the letters Y E S emblazoned on top. The abortion referendum drew great debate in Ireland, and Savita had a few years prior sadly lost her life after a miscarriage. It drew great attention from the media, and the public in general, becoming a symbol of the yes campaign. Many came to lay flowers before the mural, or leave notes of sorrow and gratitude. Considering the artist only chose to paint it the night before, its amazing the profound impact it had.
The Angiery Camden Tour comes continues on Richmond with Masers “Don’t be Afraid” on Richmond Place (the last words of Seamus Heaney, then followed by “Thoughts”, a mural of George Bernard Shaw by Fink on Synge Street. A walk along Dublin’s peaceful Grand Canal is the perfect way to soak in all that art before taking Charlemont road to Peters Place, another favourite location of Dublin’s artists.
Dublin 6 Tour
This tour is above all only for those with time and energy to burn. Or a car. Yet it has with rewards for those that do though. If its a step to far I suggest cutting it short and following Harrington St to the immense David Attenborough Mural. Otherwise cross the Grand Canal again and Mountpleasant Avenue to Ranelagh. From here Rathmines is a long walk though. Further south in Bushy Park is another Subset work, before the tour returns to the villages of Terenure and Harolds Cross. Crossing the Grand Canal brings you back to the City Centre and Harrington Street.
The Liberties was formerly one of Dublin’s best locations for street art, owing in particular to the car park of the Tivoli on Francis Street. Sadly the car park has now become a building site, and as a result the art is trapped behind. The Liberties still have a number of redeeming murals though. Continue on up Clanbrassil St from The Angiery Camden Tour or the Dublin 6 tour, and turn onto Francis St. Here is Fink’s famed Stop Wars mural. Passing the trapped art of the Tivoli, you arrive on Thomas Street and the Guinness distillery. Finally take in the elaborate wall above Roe and Co. Bridgefoot Street will then take you to the liffey and the next tour.
Smithfield is now one of Dublin’s trendiest neighbourhoods, which is in fact a far cry from its past. It was once the location of a major market, and still hosts a bi-annual horse fair. As regards street art, it was here that the famous Stormzy Mural debacle helped give birth to the Grey Area Project. The Haymarket and Proper Order Coffee Company are the first stop on your tour, and the square has in addition several pieces around its circumference.
North Dublin Suburbs Tour
Take the streets by the Jameson distillery to arrive on Church Street and a further route that passes into the suburbs of Phibsborough and Drumcondra. The first work is one of the most famed, Subsets Horseboy, of a horse bound youngster and a backdrop of the Smithfield Horse Fair. Continue on Phibsborough Road to Constitution Hill Flats, for a representation of a real life incident that took place in Dublin, when a train overshot the tracks and ploughed through the wall of Dublin’s Harcourt St Station.
The Pack Page in Phibsborough is also a great sponsor of the arts, and worth travelling to. Continue to Drumcondra and the area surrounding Croke Park, where the art turns next to support of Dublin in GAA. The black and white Brendan Behan adorning the side of a house in Richmond Cottages is an absolute must see also. Finally Dorset St takes the tour back to the centre of the city.
Dublin North City Centre
Returning to the city centre and the shopping region surrounding Henry St, there are two places here in particular that are worth trawling. The first is the fruit markets around Mary Street and Chancery Street, and then Strand Street. Finish with the Italian Quarter and its imposing Last Supper before facing the Liffey and a walk to the docks.
The next and last tour travels through Dublin’s renovated docklands. The design begins on Tara Street with the distinctive Tara Building, before weaving through the maze of streets beyond to Townsend Street and the Liffey on City Quay. A selection of large and impressive murals takes you to Grand Canal Dock though. Follow Mount St back towards the centre to complete the circular tour..
Dublin Canvas is an initiative run by Dublin Council with the aim to paint the Traffic Light Boxes of the city. No longer a street side eyesore, the initiative has therefore been open to anyone who van “pick up a brush and paint”. As a result, it has produced some really unique ideas, and added something different to the scene. By Spring 2019, 325 boxes in Dublin had in fact been painted. I don’t have a map for the boxes, only a suggestion, if you see a traffic light, there’s therefore a good chance the box on the footpath has been painted. Below are a selection of some of the most interesting ones I have come across.
Bees of Dublin
All over the city are also a series of bees particularly in the Dublin 6 area. the work of an artist called Buzzy Bee, they are a particularly motivitianal set. With messages such as Just Bee, Bee Kind, and Bee Free I can guarentee you will Bee Happy to find them For more on these I refer you to the interview with their artist in the Circular.
Street art is of course constantly changing in any city, and as I compiled this blog, some of the art I intended to include has been painted over or has simply disappeared. Nonetheless they deserve a place in this compilation.
I have used the websites of all the aforementioned artists to keep this blog up to date and the descriptions accurate. For walking tours of Dublin DublinWalls.com has been a great aid, as have also the instagram accounts of subset and DublinStreetStuff. I’m looking forward to continuing my own journey with Dublin and its walls, and above all keeping this guide to the Street Art of Dublin as accurate as I can.
Why not take a look at my walking tour of Brussels and its exuberant comic book art scene, in my blog on its street art and architecture.
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