Lisbon graffiti

I used to buy mid-century furniture at Tom Tom behind St Giles Circus
I’m writing this on Tommy’s 1958 Charles & Ray Eames’ Aluminium Chair EA108
He pointed out, when selling it, that the price was commensurate with the white neoprene glides, apparently a mark of early authenticity

He was some age past fifty himself, rotund, not much past my shoulders with a raspy voice
I’m not sure how I knew that he’d been Keith Richard’s dresser but the shop didn’t match Tommy’s appearance or previous profession
In fact I couldn’t imagine Tommy as a dresser
Though his voice seemed a product of a louche past there wasn’t any effeteness about him

It was many years ago and I may be spreading apocryphal stories
The main details have dimmed, such as Tommy’s name and whether it was Keith Richard or another seventies rock idol

However, the quality of furniture began to tail-off as mid-century furniture became popular
Tommy was before his time or maybe other entrepreneurs were choking his supply


Almost imperceptibly Tommy’s shop changed it’s position; more idiosyncratic prints lined the walls with eye-watering prices
Policemen with smiley faces, rats protesting peace or monkeys going into battle
Unusual and not appealing

They proliferated and Tommy’s son, the protagonist of the repositioning, cleared the basement to make more space
By stooping and pinching your shoulders you stepped down into a space where you could barely stand upright

The start of a phenomenon, an urban philosopher and artist
Banksy took graffiti mainstream
Speculators fought over his painted walls; by square meter, worth more than their property value
Conversely the prices of the prints on Tommy’s walls, now seemed like loose change
Is Tommy’s son the unidentified Banksy?

I had thought graffiti was uncreative and destructive
But now graffiti is art with a social purpose
The smiley faces, monkeys and rats made sense


I was failing to find a place to eat in Lisbon; instead I found a full bin liner painted on the front of an upmarket restaurant
A social comment if full of rotting food; Banksy’s style
A Tesco bag confirmation

Hunting for Banksy’s is a preoccupation
But here in Lisbon there’s an interesting diversity and much to rival its Iberian sister Sevilla

photography and text by Tim Harris
This entry was published on June 2, 2017 at 6:30 pm. It’s filed under Graffiti, Portugal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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