Street Art Tells the Other Side of the World Cup Story

In the many cities hosting the month-long FIFA World Cup tournament, street artists share their criticisms in vibrant, powerful murals located in public spaces.
June 16, 2014, 7am PDT | Michael Newton
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In the run up to the festivities now underway in the "samba nation," graffiti and street art color walls praising, though overwhelmingly criticizing, the more than $40 billion spent on World Cup infrastructure.

"Brazil had a problematic run-up to the tournament, with protests drawing international attention to poverty, inequality and brutal clearances of communities. But the idea that this should be allowed to spoil the football itself is to underestimate the appeal of the game in one of the countries that is best at it. Nevertheless, many artists are angry," writes Jonathan Jones for The Guardian. "No doubt [the murals] will be juxtaposed with shots of roaring crowds and street parties, even though many of the pictures are filled with skepticism and rage."

While some media coverage of the World Cup has been focused on the public transit, airport, and various other strikes leading up to the contest, Brazil's vibrant street art and mural culture is not going to raise a red card on the games.

"But perhaps this is one of those moments when the images break open, the dreams and nightmares of society spill from fantasy into reality, and the hungry kid gets fed. In that case, these paintings will become icons of a revolution started by sport."

Jones' hopeful scenario may not occur, however even The Economist devoted its recent cover edition to criticizing FIFA, with corruption rampant in this global franchise. This issue is only the latest in a succession of growing consciousness on major games and tournaments and what they reveal about the impact and hypocrisy of infrastructure investment in the face of rampant inequality with regard to access to municipal services, housing, mobility and the basic rule of law. Street Art remains one of the visual artifacts of this public outcry.

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Published on Monday, June 9, 2014 in The Guardian
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