Soho – the Malaga neighbourhood being transformed by art

Where do I wish I was right now? On the roof of the CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo) in the Soho area of Malaga. Why? Because the American artist Shepard Fairey, also known simply as Obey, is creating the enormous mural  Paz y Libertad on one of the walls of the García Lorca school behind the museum and people are sitting on the roof watching the artwork develop. Even if you have never heard of him before, you will be familiar with at least one of his works: the poster of Barack Obama which, although unofficial, ended up being one of the enduring images of the 2008 campaign.  Fairey later recreated it for the cover of Time magazine.

In Malaga, Fairey has got some assistants to help him and they seem to be working really fast. The renowned British artist D*Face will be painting another mural on a parallel wall and together the artworks will comprise one of the largest painted surfaces in the world.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen local artists will be creating more work throughout the area in the coming week. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all next time I’m in the city. When I was in Malaga recently I was staying at the Room Mate Lola hotel in Soho and there was already a lot of artistic activity going on. I watched local artist Dadi Dreucol being raised up by a crane to reach the side of the apartment building where he spent a weekend painting a mural about the 19th-century industrialist Tomas Heredia Livermore, who played a leading role in the development of the city. It is on the corner of Vendeja and Tomás Heredia, which is the main street through the neighbourhood and has just been pedestrianised.

Soho is the area between the Alameda boulevard and the port, bordered to the west by the CAC museum and the riverbed and to the east by the Plaza de la Marina. Parts of the district are really dilapidated and quite a few buildings are empty. The CAC is working with the city council and local residents to promote creative projects in this triangular grid of streets under the umbrella of the MAUS programme – Malaga Arte Urbano Soho. That weekend when I was there at the end of September, there seemed to be easels set up on every street corner with artists painting canvases in all sorts of styles. As I walked around, I came across astounding images, graffiti and photography on walls, windows, shop shutters and balconies.

Other artists involved so far include Dal East from China, Faith 47 from South Africa, Boa Mistura from Madrid  and ROA from Belgium, who has created an extraordinary mural of tumbling rats on the curving façade of a block of flats at the eastern end of Calle Casas de Campos and also an amazing chamaleon at the other end of the street. Around the corner on Calle San Lorenzo, Dadi Dreucol has painted a heart with one of his trademark figures emerging from it.

There is art of one sort of another everywhere you look, with more appearing all the time. There are already a few galleries too and bars and cafés are popping up too.  Gentrification is creeping in slowly but surely and I get the feeling interesting new uses will be found for all those empty buildings before too long.

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