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Sofia and its painted garments

"Sofia Urban Art" - the first book that explores street and ‎graffiti art in Sofia over the last three decades

Photo: sofiagraffititour.com

In the last days of the past year 2023, one of the best graffiti artists in Bulgaria, ‎Nasimo, and his Fine Graff Art team announced on their FB page their decision ‎to donate all newly received income from reproductions and their free work to ‎‎"various educational and others institutions that directly serve our children - ‎our future". 

Stanislav Trifonov, as the real name of the artist Nasimo is, ‎promises to "donate" his talent in the form of murals, paintings and talks, so ‎that children can grow up in a more favourable environment, surrounded by art ‎with a message and incentives for development of their creative potential. And ‎if for the older generation of Bulgarians, graffiti still means only those ugly ‎inscriptions and slogans on the walls from the beginning of the democratic ‎transition in the country, then we must honestly admit that in the last thirty ‎years the street garments of Sofia have become more colorful, beautiful ‎and impressive - worthy of the global street art scene. ‎

The young team of Sofia Graffiti Tour, created by Tsvetan ‎Bizev and like-‎minded people, proves it. In 2016, they started organizing walking tours that ‎show graffiti and street art around the streets of the Bulgarian capital. The tours ‎continue to be held to this day, all year round, completely free of charge also in ‎English, so that every foreigner can "see" the true face of our city. Over the ‎years, the young people's idea grew to the creation of a cultural organization ‎that supports and organizes various festivals, exhibitions, events, master classes ‎and film screenings in support of the native graffiti scene. 

And for a week now ‎their biggest dream has come true - the first published bilingual (Bulgarian and ‎English) anthology of street art in Sofia for the last three decades. ‎

‎“The book is called "Sofia Urban Art" and traces the development of graffiti in ‎Sofia from the beginning of the 1990s until now. This is an attempt to ‎systematize all events in this field - the most important artists, the most ‎important locations, how these drawings grow into the subculture of the place ‎in the first years of the new century and reach the boom after that, with the ‎appearance of the festivals and large-scale murals we see today. We ourselves ‎have been fans of this art for nearly twenty years and it has always been a ‎dream for us that street art and graffiti in Sofia have their own book. I believe ‎this will take the scene to a higher level and open it up to the world. The idea is ‎to present the book outside of Bulgaria as well," Tsvetan Bizev tells Radio ‎Bulgaria. ‎

It is for this reason that an international partner for the distribution of "Sofia ‎Urban Art" is the largest graffiti and street art museum in Europe "Straat" based ‎in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The publication is based on years of research, ‎collection of archival footage, numerous conversations with artists and ‎organizers, as well as 600 carefully selected images spread over 256 pages. ‎

Tsvetan says that it is very important to show works and artists that are ‎historically important for this kind of culture in BulgariaКо such as Eric 273 ‎from the beginning of the 21st century, the team of "140 Ideas" ‎responsible for some of the most the beautiful school walls in the city, the ‎bizarre creatures of Bozko and, of course, Nasimo and the group of Destructive ‎Creation, who more than ten years ago tried to "change the clothing" of the ‎Monument to the Soviet Army in line with the times of the Marvel Cinematic ‎Universe. ‎

"Bulgaria is quite solid in terms of style and artists”, Bizev tells us. “We have ‎quite a few representatives who are world-famous and in this regard Bulgaria is ‎developing in parallel with graffiti and street art around the world. From the ‎point of view of providing infrastructure for painting, we should note that in ‎‎2023, for the first time in Sofia, a wall was set aside, on which it is ‎administratively permitted. There have been similar locations in Plovdiv and ‎other cities for a long time, and I hope that more and more such places will ‎appear. I personally think that every neighborhood should have its own street art ‎gallery."‎

Street art does not necessarily have a social and political context, believes ‎Tsvetan Bizev. But he truly believes that this type of art is increasingly entering ‎the image of a city, changing it to the extent that it bcomes part of its tourist ‎appeal.‎

‎"One such example was Lisbon where the municipality itself supports street ‎visual art and organizes various events. They do not set administrative ‎restrictions on how to paint the facades, but give complete artistic freedom.”‎

Our capital city, in its appearance today, is very similar to Berlin, believes the ‎founder of Sofia Graffiti Tour: ‎

‎ "It’s the urban dynamics. There, too, the dynamics is extremely ‎great from the point of view of new graffiti constantly appearing on the walls, ‎as is the case in Sofia, too.”‎

Each of Bulgaria's big cities has its own well-developed graffiti scene, Tsvetan ‎Bizev tells us, and it is worth learning how to perceive it because it is part of ‎modern urban culture. And his wish for the year 2024 is to have more graffiti ‎festivals in Bulgaria which are the basis of the unification and growth of the ‎entire community of street artists and their urban works. ‎

‎*The book "Sofia Urban Art" is published with the support of the Sofia ‎Municipality and the National Culture Fund.‎

Read also:

Photos: sofiagraffititour.com, FB / Sofia Graffiti Tour

Translated and published by Rositsa Petkova

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