Cities have been investing and promoting urban art practices arised from manifestations like graffiti and street art, contributing to place mural in the scope of the main comissions in the contemporary art market. Despite their recognition in the visual culture of the cities (Irvine, 2012), urban mural is in need of further investigation focused on the contexts, creative processes, and ways of engagement associated with these phenomena.

The urban art practices engage a wide range of areas, such as the urban sociology, anthropology, geography, the gender and cultural studies. Recently, the literature about graffiti and street art has related some practices, techniques, styles, and results, with other movements like pop art and the land art (Lewisohn, 2012). In Portugal, the touristic information focus in the presentation and localization of murals (Zest, 2014). Mobile applications display not only the geographic location but also suggest urban art tours. However, both are in need of theoretic, conceptual, and curatorial perspectives.

The goal of this exploratory project is to give an interpretation about the urban mural practices in Lisbon, considering not only the most contemporary manifestations, but also the legacy of previous registers as well as the contributions of other contemporary expressions in the public space. Furthermore, this investigation will play a key role in reflecting, discussing and questioning urban art practices in today's cities as well as the participation processes related with these manifestations. For instance, the influence of social networks and digital environments in the artistic communities, the participation of the audiences, and the importance of mediation. This project will continue the investigation took forward by the team of the Public Art in the Cultural Luso-Brazilian Relations.

The investigation will study the impact and the contributions of recent urban art practices in the increase of these manifestations worldwidely. Lisbon holds a mural legacy (Câmara, 2014) and this project will enable to trace continuities, connections, and ruptures with previous registers. In this chronological framework, we will consider only murals accessible in or by the streets. The commissioned works under the Urban Art Gallery – GAU as well as illegal contexts and palimpsests, will also be referred in the investigation.

The project will have the opportunity to build a strong theoretical framework and corpus to prepare and enrich future applications to European and national calls for projects. The exploratory project will involve several institutions attempting to create a network of partners sharing information and knowledge concerning these manifestations. The investigation is supported by FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology and ULHT-CICANT.

The methodology and the framework of analysis will approach the contexts of mural production in relation with historical, social, political, and cultural moments. The methodological approach will follow specific criteria focusing on quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis, so that the corpus of murals identified is well characterized. The tasks will involve the analysis of the phenomenon local (Lisbon) and globally, the gathering and selection of murals in archives or other sources, and a distribution in space and time about the urban mural practice in Lisbon. The case studies will be identified for further analysis. The investigation will try to understand the contexts, interventions, site specificities, and ways of dissemination of murals.

The exploratory investigation will deliver the following outputs:

  1. A mural database of Lisbon
  2. A corpus of contents reflecting upon urban art practices
  3. Launch of a platform in curating public art, with an online glossary