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 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 two 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. What’s more the locals seem to love it and it certainly has the backing of the local council. Attending the opening of the second edition of the festival in the impressive and domineering Town House, the energy was apparent with artists, bloggers and local dignitaries mixing and sharing stories and learning from each others worlds.
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 two 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 can be easily explored in a day.
The Green – Aberdeen Market
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 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.
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. 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.
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 bluetits.
Jopp Lane and Harriet Street
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 Jopp’s 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 newer work 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. Around the corner on Harriet Street meanwhile two blue and white boats have been painted by Poland’s M-City.
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.
Towards the western edge of the mural district and a short walk from the cluster of works around Union Row, two more pieces can be seen on 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 Willowbank 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. Around the corner on Queen Street there is also a piece from Norwegian artist Martin Whatson, slightly hidden away when we visited but only because there were a number of workmen’s sheds hiding it from view.
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.
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 all pictures in this post were taken then.