Top Urban Art and Street Sculptures in Costa Rica
What comes to your mind when someone says “Costa Rican art?”
When we think about art, we usually think of baroque or realistic depictions that famous European artists created hundreds of years ago. When we think about Urban Art, however, our minds might travel to those colorful neighborhoods near New York. But did you know you can also find art like that in Latin America?
In this matter, Costa Rica is a little gem hidden in plain light, so let’s learn about what makes it so special, and why you should add it to your list of places to visit, especially if you are an art enthusiast.
What is Urban Art?
El arte urbano, or urban art, is a combination of street art and graffiti. Urban artists usually use the buildings and layouts in urban areas as inspiration and adapt their art to them.
Sadly, urban art may be considered vandalism in many places because of its existence in public space, where authorities think art “degrades” the area.
However, this point of view has changed with time, with private businesses and properties providing permission to artists to create art on their walls.
An amazing characteristic of urban art is that while it began as something artists did in their own neighborhoods, it has evolved to a global level where artists can travel thousands of miles to create art alongside other urban artists and portray their art in a wall far away from home.
Also, urban art has begun to be recognized as a media, and museums and galleries have open spaces for urban artists to show their art and give them more recognition and opportunities instead of taking them like vandals or delinquents.
Urban Art in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is widely known for its natural beauty, which in a sense, it’s is Costa Rican art.
Jungles and fresh air are everyday things in this country. Take for example Guanacaste, the perfect vacation spot if you love nature, or all the top-tier hiking spots if you are more of a hiking fan and adventurer.
If you are thinking of celebrations, Christmas, Holy Week, Costa Rica’s Independence Day and La Fiesta de la Virgen de Los Ángeles are some of the most popular celebrations in the country, not only in the capital.
Honestly, every corner of this country is charming in some way or another, but for many years tourists have skipped the large city of San José, the capital of Costa Rica, because they haven’t found it as “charming” as other cities in the region, inadvertently passing up a great artistic experience.
Urban Art in Costa Rica has evolved during the last few decades to what it is today, and this is a story the walls in the city can tell you.
What started as means of expression through graffiti and street art, evolved slowly to what is known today as arte urbano, as a way to express and revive the spirit of the city of San José.
Costa Rican art in the streets is amazing. It goes beyond scribbles and signatures in the wall—which is art in its own way—and depicts the reality of this country, faces, daily moments portrayed forever in the walls of the city.
But to find this expression of Costa Rican art, you have to go away from the center of the city and search for it in small streets and unassuming neighborhoods like el barrio la California (The California neighborhood) or los Barrios Amón, Otoya y Aranjuez (Amón, Otoya and Aranjuez neighborhoods), where part of this artistic movement began.
Today, urban art is highly appreciated in Costa Rica to the point that the government, private houses, and business owners are the ones giving permission to artists to paint on public and private property—although this doesn’t mean there aren’t artists that still like to paint in “illegal” spots, because they like the adrenaline or the rush.
Famous Costa Rican Artists
There are several famous Costa Rican artists who stand out in several different media and techniques, you can find famous Costa Rican art inside the most important museum of Costa Rica, you can even find Costa Rican art prints online and buy them for your home!
But today we are going to learn about the most popular Costa Rican artists, famous urban artists in one of the most popular Costa Rican art forms, that have changed the face of San José in the last few decades.
Negus is one of the most famous Costa Rican artists these days. He was exposed to art from a young age thanks to his mother, who is a painter, and influenced him while asking for his opinion when she worked on pieces during his childhood.
He has evolved from street and urban artist to tattoo artist and likes to create art for people to see and enjoy.
2. Vivo Graff
Formerly known as Yiyo, Vivo Graff is one of the most famous Costa Rican artists in the street and urban scene.
He began to be more recognized thanks to his work in giving life and color to the town of San Ramón, which led him to not only paint in old, forgotten walls, but to also paint in private property, like houses and businesses.
His work is full of portraits, geometric forms, and pop art, and his use of color makes his work stand out from the rest of his peers.
Gussa is another famous Costa Rican artist that has stood out in the street and urban scene.
He studied architecture and his paintings have reached places like Spain, the United States, and Mexico thanks to his different techniques and artistic approach. He has been involved with the community of La Carpio, and has worked with the Sistema Integral de Formación Artística para la Inclusión Social (SIFAIS), or Integral System of Art Education for Social Inclusion.
His work is easily recognizable thanks to his signature happy face present in all of them, along with strong and vibrant colors and bold lines.
4. Diego Fournier
Diego Fournier began his trajectory as an artist when he was 7 years old, the same time he began to study plastic arts in the Castella Conservatory in Costa Rica.
His experience in street art came from the project De mi barrio a tu barrio—a street and urban art project to create safe and legal spaces to bring color to some neighborhoods in several countries in Latin American and the Caribbean—where he had the opportunity to paint in the front of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly and be part of a book published about the experience and an exposition in Germany.
Mush, or Hongo, is one of the pioneers of the graffiti and urban art movement in Costa Rica.
He began his trajectory painting with shoe polish about his favorite fut-bol (football) team and skating. In 2001 he began to sign his work as hongo (mushroom), when he began to experiment with spray paint.
He was part of Pintores sin Kontrol (Painters without Control) and painted in the southeast part of San José.
To this day, Mush is a prominent artist in the urban scene. He has made paints for business and commercials, while still enjoying the rush of street art and graffiti.
Why Is Urban Art Important to Costa Rican Artists?
Urban and street art in Costa Rica often represents the daily life of the Ticos (Costa Rica informal demonym), their struggles, their inspirations, and their ideas.
Urban art is important because it lets the artist be loud and clear about their intentions and ideals—contrary to the street art in Cuba, where artists are chased for it—and let them express themselves at the same time they show the world their love for their neighborhood and everyday life.
Costa Rican art has evolved in San José, and this city has slowly become more colorful through time and now is one of the most important artistic spots in Central America. But you can also experience street and urban art in other cities and towns around Costa Rica, like in Port Limón and La Fortuna.
So ask travel agencies about these spots, or talk with the locals about it and experience a new, colorful side of Costa Rica!
How Can You Experiment Street Art in Costa Rica?
The colorful neighborhoods in San José are no secret, and if you move a little bit away from the center of the city, you will be able to find these masterpieces around the city.
But if you are interested in supporting local businesses and make the best out of your visit, you can approach some tourist services to visit the place, like Costa Rica en la pared (Costa Rica on the Wall).
If you are interested in learning more about all that “informal” face of Costa Rica, I highly recommend you check out these 20 Costa Rican Slang Phrases you can use every day!
Learn Spanish for Your Next Trip!
Do you know that learning Spanish helps your cognition and decision-making abilities?
Thinking about your next destination while preparing for your travels is not an easy task. Discussing Costa Rican art, choosing your favorite painting by Costa Rican artists, and just being able to speak and understand Spanish will make your life so much easier and more fun during your visit!
You’ll be able to interact with the locals and have a more fulfilling and authentic experience, talking to people at a more personal level, without a language barrier to worry about!
So prepare your trip to Costa Rica and sign up for a free, 1-to-1 class with a certified, native Spanish-speaking teacher at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Check out our programs and take a peek at our affordable prices and begin this new adventure with us!
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