“If you want to get to know a city, look at its walls. Athens might be a mess but there is creativity.” So says one of the best-known Athenian street artists, the elusive INO. The artist, who actually hails from Piraeus, knows of what he speaks as his intriguing murals have graced walls in several neighborhoods of the capital, including Psirri which is home to some of the most vibrant and dynamic street art in the whole of Athens.
Psirri’s evolution as a veritable laboratory of creative expression was galvanized by the 2004 Olympic Games, and later the economic crisis proved fertile ground for artists of varying degrees of rebelliousness to ply their craft. For many graffiti artists (many of whom studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts), Psirri became their canvas, the urban jungle as virtual open air gallery. As elsewhere, Athenian street art typically carries a message—sometimes it’s political, generally it’s colorful and decidedly anti-commercial. Vangelis Hoursoglou, Alex Martinez, Blaqk and INO are just a few of the artists who have made their art mark in and around Psirri with murals, protest designs and more. Says INO, “I want to feel the walls when I paint, to go to a place without any particular recipe. And I want to spread art, not merchandise.”
In Psirri, this untamed artistic spectacle is part of the DNA, and pretty much everywhere you look. Right outside the Monastiraki metro—on the side that’s just north of Ermou Street—there’s a very large mural (look for the big-toothed smiles) by Alexandros Vasmoulakis looming above the cafes and restaurants of Psirri Square. It’s even at 18 Micon Street! As a proud part of Psirri’s creative scene, we invited local artist IRIS-AZ to add some of her street art flourishes to our hotel’s lobby and basement. Take that in and then perhaps take a short walk over to Evmorfopoulou Street to see a quiet street splashed out in street art from one end to the other—then find your way to narrow Louka Nika lane where there’s even more. Be inspired as you navigate the side street and get ready to send your Instagram alight, too.