Belgian street artist Spear and Argentine artist Leticia Bonetti finished a new mega mural in Buenos Aires this week that celebrates the concept and practice of recycling.
The mammoth work of art is located two blocks from Alcorta Shopping Mall on the wall of a warehouse building in Saldias, close to Villa 31. The project was organized by Buenos Aires Street Art and took Spear and Bonetti 18 days to complete — ending up measuring 700 square meters in total.
The mural features a giant portrait of Ana Maria Sanchez, a woman who works for a nearby recycling cooperative and two-year-old Zoe Maluzan, the daughter and granddaughter of two local factory workers. Zoe is depicted holding a toy airplane made from recycled materials. The bird, depicted in mid flight, is native to Belgium — a nod to Spear’s home turf.
Sanchez works in a workshop with the ‘El Ceibo’ cooperative that receives recyclable materials in by the truck load and separates the cardboard, plastic, paper, glass and aluminum so that they can be sold or used to create objects like sculptures, furniture or toys. “What is important is that we need to care more about water, land and nature and try to improve our quality of life,” she said. “Every day we need to think about not throwing away any bottle or can or any material as the earth cannot continue supporting the amount of waste we produce.”
Matt Fox-Tucker founder of Buenos Aires Street Art invited Spear to Argentina to participate in the project, with his organization covering the artist’s flights and the costs of the materials necessary to complete the mural of this scale as well as securing the sponsors — Alba Pinturas, Kuwait Aerosol Urbano and Maquinarias Pyramiz who provided the latex paint, aerosols and crane respectively.
Fox-Tucker said: “The idea was not only to invite a top Belgian street artist to Buenos Aires to paint a huge mural but also for the artwork to also have environmental impact, in this case talking about the importance of separating recyclable materials and also paying tribute to a positive role model like Ana Maria who helps care for our planet and future generations.”
The idea of the mural was not only to transform what was a grey facade of a warehouse building but to have a social and environmental impact on the zone that is just a couple of blocks from Villa 31 — an area that continues to struggle with high rates of crime and access to goods and services.
Spear, 29, from Brussels, specializes in portraits that capture the strength and resilience of the average person and has created murals all over Latin America in countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Peru. This latest project is his biggest to date though, which is one of the main motivating factors for teaming up with Argentine artist Leticia Bonetti.
“For me, the idea of painting portraits in the street is to show more humanity and share emotions and expressions with people who see them and to make the street a happier place,” said Spear. “With this mural we wanted to have a social message first of all about the importance of the family and to also create a mural inside the social tissue of the neighborhood that’s why the people we painted are from here.”
Buenos Aires Street Art has organized more than 100 murals in Buenos Aires over the last five years as well as murals by international street artists in other countries like Canada, USA, Belgium, UK, Malaysia and Thailand. The organization also runs street art tours, painting workshops and sells paintings by some of the best known street artists in Latin America.