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Street art thrives in Sao Paulo despite pandemic

Perched atop a platform swaying in the air 10 stories high, Paola Delfin is putting the final touches on a giant graffiti mural in the sprawling concrete jungle of Sao Paulo.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 13, 2020 aaerial view of graffitis on buildings as part of the first edition of the NaLata International Art Festival which has 15 national and international artists of urban art at Largo da Batata, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. - The festival wants to make Sao Paulo as the world capital of graffiti. (Photo by Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 13, 2020 aaerial view of graffitis on buildings as part of the first edition of the NaLata International Art Festival which has 15 national and international artists of urban art at Largo da Batata, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. – The festival wants to make Sao Paulo as the world capital of graffiti. (Photo by Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP)

The Brazilian mega-city is known as a world street-art capital, and not even the coronavirus pandemic has stopped graffiti painters.

Delfin and 14 other artists are painting 12 giant murals on the facades of a series of buildings around a square in the chic neighborhood of Pinheiros.

The work is part of the NaLata urban art festival, an event that had to be mostly canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic — except for the murals.

Together, they cover 3,689 square meters (40,000 square feet), the biggest ensemble graffiti work in Brazil.

Because of coronavirus stay-at-home measures, “we decided we would only feature artists who were already in Sao Paulo,” said the festival’s curator, Luan Cardoso.

“The festival was originally going to have a series of public activities, but we had to cancel them to avoid crowds. With these paintings, though, this part of the festival is happening in the street. It’s totally democratic,” he told AFP.

Delfin, a 31-year-old Mexican artist, said painting on the streets of the Brazilian cultural capital was a dream come true.

Her 182-square-meter work depicts a man and woman’s face in black and white with near-photographic realism.

“Sao Paulo is obviously a super important place in the art world, especially street art and public art. I had always wanted to work here, and doing it in such a central place where lots of people can see is really important,” she said.

Brazil is the second-worst-hit country in the pandemic, after the United states, with more than 3.3 million cases and more than 108,000 deaths.

Sao Paulo state, the hardest hit, accounts for a quarter of the death toll.

The artists all depicted their reflections on the pandemic in their work.

Delfin said she wanted hers to send “a message of hope, that things will get back on track.”

“I can see loads of people looking at it out their windows,” she said.


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