Ah Aberdeen, the granite city, the city of grey! The city boasts some fine buildings made from hard stone hewn from nearby quarries. It is a city that shines and shimmers at different intensities dependent on whether it rains or if it doesn’t.
Now many the walls of the city have been given an extra dimension. Murals from some of the best street artists from around the world have been popping up in the city over the past three years. Part of the Nuart festival which started in Stavanger and which now has journeyed over the sea to North East Scotland.
The city centers around its main thoroughfare, Union Street. It is a grand promenade and is the artery through which you can get to most places. This is true of all the street art and murals which are dotted around. Hidden on side streets, with some more obvious than others, to explore the city means getting to know Union Street pretty well.
Nuart has brought street art to the city in a big way. Each year has seen different parts opened up for street art. From the Harbourside to Holbourne Place. Murals can be seen large scale on the sides of buildings and hidden away down alleys and in the Tunnels. Most is curated but some is not and the chances are you’ll discover many other places that are on this list.
So anyway, for this post we thought we’d share just where the art is to be found in Aberdeen. The city boasts some incredible pieces of work, the result of three years worth of Nuart festivals and of course the talent of some of the finest street artists around. What’s more, they are all pretty close to each other so could easily be explored in a day.
The Green is at the heart of old Aberdeen with little streets going off in all directions. Stand in the centre and you can’t miss the dominant mural of a young girl from German duo Herakut. Possibly the standout piece from the 2017 version of the festival, the mural overlooks the Green and it’s shops. Around the corner an equally impressive but quite different piece from the UK’s Carrie Reichardt (2018) can be found on St. Nicolas Lane. Featuring tile based mosaics of inspirational Aberdonian women and a historical based piece based on the witch hunts which happened in the city. The additions for 2019 will be a giant mural from SMUG and Germany’s lego art from Jan Vormann.
East Green and the Tunnels
East Green, just to the side of the giant Herakut mural leads towards an area known as the tunnels. Keep heading through and they lead towards Netherkirkgate one of the cities most ancient streets. Before then however, it passes through a series of underground loading bays where plenty of street art and graffiti can be seen dotted around. The big piece to see here though is from Hyuro (2018) The Argentinian artist has painted high on the back wall of one of the buildings which overlook and cross the street and depicted two fighting boys, seemingly a reference to the relationship between England and Scotland. For the 2019 festival Ben Eine will be painting here. There are also many other smaller pieces to be seen from local and visiting artists to the area.
To the northern edge of the mural district are a gathering of murals within a few minutes walk from each other. A cluster of pieces on Jopps Lane include a dominant work from Australia’s Fintan Magee which overlooks a car park and a text based piece from the UK’s Robert Montgomery just to the other side, both murals being from 2017. A 2018 piece from Elki depicting a set of headphones resting on a mixing desk sits in a small yard nearby. The Elki piece is an ambitious multi-layered stencil which itself sits next to an earlier work by the artist and which is allegedly is the oldest piece of street art in the city. In 2019 works have been added by Dotmasters whose ‘rude kids’ mural runs along the lane and HUSH whose giant Geisha mural sits on the side of John Lewis and looks straight down the street.
Harriet Street and the Science Centre
On Harriet Street two blue and white boats have been painted by Poland’s M-City (2017). A number of other smaller pieces can be seen in the area too. In 2019 Norwegian artist Hama Woods has been painting a little bit further down on Crooked Lane. Centered around the Science Centre her Leopard overlooks the car park whilst another of her intricate stencilled animals will sit above the entrance.
Queen Street and Marishcal Square
A number of smaller pieces can be seen dotted around Queen Street leading from Marishcal Square to the arts centre. A 2017 mural by Martin Whatson is the largest piece but a number of works from Evol (2019) can also be seen hidden around. He turns street furniture into mini tower blocks but are not immediately obvious. Close by in the entrance yard of the ‘Anatomy Rooms’ there is also a small piece from Anders Gjennstad also from 2019.
Ship Row and Virginia Street
Accessing Ship Row from Union Street there are no prizes for guessing just why it is so called. Ship Row leads down to the harbour and towards Virginia Street which runs alongside. Here works from Alice Pasquini (2017) and Snik (2018) can be found around the corner from each other against the backdrop of the busy Aberdonian port. The latest work from Snik is a giant stencil which has then been finished by hand. It shows a young woman being dragged up to the sky by a number of blue tits.
The area around Union Row, just off Union Street, has been opened up as part of the 2018 series of murals. Large scale works from Portugal’s Bordalo, Lithuania’s Ernest Zacharevic and Norway’s Nimi and RH74 have appeared alongside a smaller piece from Argentina’s Milu Correch. All highly impressive, the Bordalo one in particular is a must see, made as it is entirely from recycled plastics giving the work a unique 3D appearance.
Holbourn Place & Willowbank Road
Towards the western edge of the mural district and a short walk from the cluster of works around Union Row, two more pieces from 2018 can be seen near Holbourn Place. The first, at the corner with Union Street, is from Sheffield’s Phlegm, a huge fan favourite on the street art scene his black and white illustrative murals are always spectacular to look at, featuring as they do, scenes from his own artistic world. A bit further down on the corner of Willowbank Road and Scottish artists Conzo & Globel have painted a cartoon and text based collaboration featuring seagulls and chips two staples of Aberdonian life.
There are many other locations with street art knocking about including the top of the St. Nicolas Rooftop Gardens where Bortusk Leer has created an expansive collage of his cartoon monsters.
Elsewhere on a little street called Adelphi, a mosaic mural from Carrie Reichardt can be found hidden away. Part of Amnesty International’s ‘Suffragette Spirit‘ campaign the mosaic captures the stories of historical and modern day women who have made and are making a difference to people’s lives and to society as a whole.
Belmont Street also has a spectacular piece although it is best seen from the bridge on Union Street which overlooks the Union Terrace Gardens. From Portuguese artist ‘Add Fuel‘. Inspired by the tiles and ceramics of Aberdeen, the piece itself looks like a tile mosaic whose colour palette perfectly blends into to the surrounding architecture. Go onto the street itself and there are a number of other little gems hidden around that have been placed there by artists, you just have to keep your eyes peeled.
Nearby Rosemount Viaduct received an addition in 2019 from Norway’s Anders Gjennstad. His work is all about movement and his dancing stencils seemingly hop up and down the giant wall.
Finally Langstane Place, a road which runs parallel to Union Street for a little bit is a good place to wander up and see what can be seen. Milu Correch has one of her murals there but you’ll also likely see paste ups and little pieces of art from a number of different artists
Nuart Aberdeen was visited between 12-15 April 2018 and between 18-22 April 2019. All pictures in this post were taken during those visits.